×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tribeca Film Review: ‘The Kill Team’

A true-life horror story, Dan Krauss' chilling war-is-hell expose is must-see viewing

A true-life horror story, Dan Krauss’ docu examines the self-styled “Kill Team,” an infantry platoon that intentionally murdered innocent Afghani civilians, surreptitiously dropping weapons alongside the corpses to claim their victims were terrorists. Krauss deliberately maintains a very narrow focus, limiting his subjects to a few of the soldiers implicated and those involved in their trial, with no extraneous experts, activists or commentators intruding. In this closed-off world, the logical illogic of the soldiers’ actions becomes eerily clear as their Army training and their role as “peacekeepers” violently conflict. Many will regard this chilling war-is-hell expose as must-see viewing.  

Occupying the film’s center is Spc. Adam Winfield, a young private who in 2009 witnessed the murder of an unarmed civilian. Shocked to discover he was the only one perturbed by this action, he received death threats from other platoon members, particularly from their self-appointed leader in extracurricular crime, a certain Sgt. Calvin Gibbs.

Winfield contacted his ex-Marine father, who anonymously informed the Army, which promptly did nothing. Winfield was then forced to take part in the slaughter of an Afghani man (one of three murders the film delves into). When the story of the Kill Team finally broke, triggered not by the murders themselves but by reported hashish use, would-be whistleblower Winfield was charged with first-degree murder, even though he was acting in fear for his life.

Helmer Krauss spends extensive time with Winfield and his parents, who are outraged by his murder charge.  He follows the family and its attorney through the various stages of the ensuing trial, Winfield’s story furnishing the docu with a clear beginning, middle and end. Winfield makes a likely hero, a teen trying to do the right thing but caught, through little fault of his own, in an impossible situation. Far more problematic is the case of Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, an apparently fine, upstanding young man who became Gibbs’ willing accomplice.

The main strength of Krauss’ film lies in the soldiers’ ability, especially in Morlock’s case, to articulate the circumstances that fed this otherwise inexplicable drive to slay those who were obviously innocent. Morlock’s description of his intense training in killing and the unutterable boredom of days in the desert, punctuated by the threat of violence from IEDs and from ordinary-looking Afghanis, evokes a credible crucible for trigger-happy resentment, directed back at the hostile land and its “ungrateful” inhabitants.

Krauss never interviews the apparent sociopath at the head of the unit, who sported skull tattoos and a human finger-bone necklace as trophies of his kills (as seen in photos), and whose vision of war as a competitive scoring game clearly infected those under his command.

The Kill Team
(Documentary)

Reviewed at Tribeca Film Center (competing), April 6, 2013. (In Tribeca Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 79 MIN.

An f/8 Filmworks production in association with ITVS, Motto Pictures. Produced by Dan Krauss, Linda Davis. Executive producers, Deborah Hoffmann, Julie Goldman.

Directed by Dan Krauss. Written by Krauss, Lawrence Lerew, Linda Davis. Camera (color), Krauss; editor, Lerew; music, Justin Melland; sound, Dan Olmsted; sound designer, Jim Lebrecht.

With: Adam Winfield, Jeremy Morlock, Andrew Holmes, Justin Stoner, Christopher Winfield, Emma Winfield, Eric Montalvo.

Tribeca Film Review: 'The Kill Team'

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

  • Lizzo Coachella Valley Music and Arts

    Lizzo Joins Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in Stripper Film 'Hustlers'

    After the release of her third album and a pair of high-profile Coachella performances, Lizzo announced today that she will be joining Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in the stripper-themed film “Hustlers.” Based on a true story, the film focuses on strippers who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street male [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content