Movie Review - The Kill Team

Specialist Adam Winfield in "The Kill Team"
This documentary tells the story of U.S. Army Specialist Adam Winfield who was charged with murder over an incident that occurred with his platoon in 2010. The movie also focuses on three other soldiers who served in Afghanistan in the same platoon and were also charged with murder. Once these soldiers' crimes are exposed, they become dubbed "the kill team."

Director Dan Krauss practically embeds himself in Winfield's family. A curiously intimate shot inside Winfield's parents' home at night shows how embedded he is and how clearly on Winfield's side Krauss is. The level of access is proof of some complicity or complicit feelings toward Winfield. Krauss seems to have been present prior to Winfield's trial and sentencing. Once the news broke of Winfield's charges, Krauss must have rushed to the family and threw all sympathy and support. He wasn't in the homes of the families of the other soldiers charged with murder, at least not by what we see here.

Winfield's circumstances and situation are more unique than the others and makes him worthy of being singled out and even sympathized. How one can sympathize with someone who is charged with murder and doesn't dispute being involved is the question. The answer is that he's actually not a murderer. Winfield is not a killer. He's a coward. Yet, his cowardice is revealed to be a kind of strength.

Listening to Winfield, as well as Corporal Jeremy Morelock and Private First Class Andrew Holmes, a scary portrait of military culture is illuminated. Yet, it's not necessarily a new portrait. I would point to the Vietnam war films by Oliver Stone for similar portraits, particularly his Oscar-winning Platoon (1986). I would also point to recent documentaries like Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007), The Tillman Story (2010) and Dirty Wars (2013).

The portrait that is illuminated is an overly aggressive yet overly frustrated nature within its members. The vengeance-based nature of it is a strong undercurrent as well. It's natural in many ways, but there appears to be no management of it and in so many ways feelings of vengeance is actually encouraged.

Private First Class Justin Stoner who was labeled as a whistleblower, a label he doesn't like, makes a great observation. He says that all of them were trained to be killers, so why is anyone surprised when they do kill?

The documentary also exposes how military justice isn't impartial. We'd like to think that every case is like the one in A Few Good Men (1992) but that's not the reality. Military justice is insular and operates only to protect itself. The Invisible War (2012) was a perfect example of that. This is another. Winfield is dropped in between a rock and a hard place with no way out, and the military and government don't seem to recognize this.

At the end of the day, Winfield did participate in a murder, which he can't ultimately escape, but all the circumstances surrounding it have to be considered.

Following the fear and heartbreak of Winfield's parents is an important aspect here. It's similar to Tillman's parents, but instead of wrenching over something that was done to their son, they wrench over something their son did, and reconciling all that comes with that.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains graphic, violent images.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 20 mins.


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