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The Kill Team
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Kill Team is a well-made war drama based on the same-named 2013 documentary. It centers on a U.S. Army private stationed in Afghanistan who decides to speak out against murders committed by his sergeant and his platoon. Expect quite a bit of war/military violence, including guns and shooting, explosions, dead bodies, bloody/gory wounds, fighting, wrestling, punching, and more. Language is also very strong, with uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "c--ksucker," and more. Copies of Hustler magazine are shown, though only the cover (featuring a scantily clad woman) is visible. Soldiers smoke hash in more than one scene, and cigarette smoking is fairly common. The movie is tense, compact, and complex and could lead to some interesting discussions.
What's the story?
In THE KILL TEAM, Andrew "Briggsy" Briggman (Nat Wolff) looks forward to serving his country as an Army private while stationed in Afghanistan. At first, the job is dull, mostly trying to build positive relations with the locals, until Briggsy's staff sergeant is killed in an accident and Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgard) steps in. Deeks promises the men that, under his command, they'll become warriors. Unfortunately, Briggsy discovers that this entails killing Afghani citizens in cold blood, then making up stories to justify the murders. The other men are exhilarated, but Briggsy is shocked and doesn't know what to do. He contacts his father for advice, but this act sets in motion a chain of events that may put Briggsy's own life in danger.
Is it any good?
This war drama, written and directed by Dan Krauss and based on his own same-named 2013 documentary, is tense and compact but also morally nuanced. It stays complex rather than finding solutions. With The Kill Team, Krauss has fictionalized real events that took place in 2010 in Afghanistan, but he's kept the consequences. The movie digs deep into the code of honor that quickly forms among soldiers in war zones; their brotherhood becomes more important than anything else, and to betray it is the ultimate crime. So Briggsy's choice to try to do what he thinks is right is never seen as an easy one -- nor one that eases into a clean, final conclusion.
Krauss builds the movie almost as a suspense thriller, with Briggsy trying to go about his duties without ever knowing just how much his comrades suspect. In the lead role, Wolff is asked to juggle a great deal, a subtle combination of looking guilty and suspicious for the audience, while also trying to put on a poker face for the other characters. It's a difficult role, and Wolff mostly pulls it off. Skarsgard, with his startlingly soft-spoken demeanor and cross between fatherly assurance and psychopathic menace, is the movie's ace in the hole; he's superb and almost singlehandedly responsible for generating the movie's tension. The Kill Team is clear on one thing: It shows the murders indirectly, from the point of view of the victims' loved ones, and these reactions tell their own story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Kill Team's violence. Is it thrilling? Shocking? What other feelings does it bring up? How does it compare to less realistic violence you've seen in other movies?
What's the movie's ultimate takeaway? Did Briggman do the right thing? How difficult was his decision? What, if anything, did he change?
What's the appeal of war movies? How have war movies changed over the years? How are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq depicted as compared to WWII?
This film is based on events that actually happened. How accurate do you think it is? Why might filmmakers change the facts?