Review by Sean Boelman
The Kill Team, the narrative debut of documentarian Dan Krauss, is a thought-provoking new drama about the ethics of war. Adapted from Krauss’s documentary of the same name, this film works because of its intelligent and shocking script coupled with great performances from Nat Wolff and Alexander Skarsgård.
The movie follows a young American soldier serving in Afghanistan as he begins to question his commanding officer’s behavior as being potentially questionable. Because this story is so intensely personal, and Krauss has a connection to it already having made a documentary about it as well, it is able to draw the audience into its world quite easily.
Perhaps the most effective thing about Krauss’s approach is that he is able to build quite a bit of tension even for those who may be familiar with the outcome of the story. Thanks to expert pacing, Krauss is able to effectively emulate the feelings of fear and dread that the protagonist is experiencing, making the film’s message hit even harder.
Granted, the movie isn’t particularly subtle with its commentary. Everything that this film wants to say is put front-and-center as Krauss uses this story as a conversation starter about the ethics of war. If Krauss did his job properly (and he did), viewers will leave the movie feeling frustrated about the system and the way it treats people who are willing to speak up.
Additionally, Krauss does an excellent job of making the protagonist of the film a very sympathetic character. Over the course of the movie, audiences will come to fully support him because of the ideas for which he stands. However, even beyond that fact, the first thirty or so minutes are spent establishing the character’s personality and making him relatable despite his extraordinary situation.
Wolff does an excellent job of playing the conflicted Private with a good deal of emotion, but it is Skarsgård as the commanding officer who takes things a bit too far that truly shines. Skarsgård is playing against type here, but he proves with this film that he has just as much of a range as his father and brother. He is able to make the character feel menacing and intimidating without being a caricature, which goes a long way for the movie as a whole.
On a technical level, the film is pretty solid. Krauss’s origins as a documentarian are very much evident because the movie is shot in a very straightforward and matter-of-fact style. However, this approach allows Krauss to heighten the realism of the story. Audiences won’t be able to doubt the honesty of what they are watching.
As the narrative debut of Dan Krauss, The Kill Team is certainly a very accomplished film. Since he has already told this story before, the purpose of this movie seems to be to make its message available to another audience, and it is successful in doing that.
The Kill Team hits theaters and VOD on October 25.