'The Kill Team' brings an ugly chapter in US military history to light
When Winfield finally flew home to anticipated protection as a whistle-blower, he was instead thrown into jail and accused of the crimes he'd exposed, with the initial charges against him carrying a life-sentence "minimum." None-too-subtle message: You coulda shut up, you didn't, now eat it.
The Kill Team feels over-slick at times, in that nonfiction advocacy-cinema mode where the filmmakers get so close to their subjects they can shoot them like actors. (Did Winfield's parents really have such soul-searching moments in front of the camera? I wish I didn't even wonder.) Still, its extraordinary story can hardly help but involve and outrage.
Speaking of an Afghan farmer who barely looks adolescent in the photo we see — where grinning US soldiers pose with his corpse — Cpl. Morlock says "He didn't register as a person, he was just, you know, there." Yes, the US troops were dealing with a situation in which they were heavily regulated from interfering with a foreign culture, leaving them wide open to lethal attacks from people they hadn't previously been able to divide between civilians and terrorists. "Nobody's innocent ... so fuck 'em," Morlock recalls as his attitude. He blames this largely on the absent, macabre Gibbs, saying, "It was impossible not to surrender to the insanity of it all."
A more sober, perhaps less self-serving perspective is offered by Stoner, who shrugs, "This goes on more than just us [i.e., the Kill Team unit]. We're just the ones who got caught." — and who alone among the central Army personnel here got honorably discharged, re-enlisting a few months later. Then there's Winfield himself, who looks like he'll possibly never get over his post-traumatic depression and disillusionment. "It's not how they portray it in movies, where it's a bunch of honorable men with unshakable patriotism," he says, pimply and pallid amid his long pre-military trial incarceration. "It's just a bunch of guys with guns." *
THE KILL TEAM opens Fri/1 in Bay Area theaters.