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As a former chemical officer in Field Artillery that also served in the U.S. Army as an enlisted medic and medical technologist, I admittedly can be extremely critical of any films based on the United States military. But director Dan Krauss pulled off an exceptional job in recreating the ‘based on true events’ story in The Kill Team, starring Nat Wolff as Specialist Briggman and Alexander Skarsgård as Sergeant Deeks.

The Kill Team poster

At the beginning of the film, Briggman is in his room, preparing to go to the war-inflicted country of Afghanistan. The film, off-the-bat had an independent feel to it, and I feared it might be lacking in its ability to portray a believable message. But in minutes, I was transported into the world of this story; a factor I always appreciate.

I don’t know if Krauss was ever in the military, but I suspect he was or has had family members in the military. As a director, Krauss’ ability to grab the subtlest of nuances, or things said by soldiers in the military in a certain military fashion was more than impressive. It is not something that can be taught as much as it has to have been experienced.

As a former military member, I bought it. Not an easy task for me, a self-proclaimed critical judge of any film that might make a mistake, especially a military one.

In short, Krauss, and his direction of the actors was so convincing, I grew uneasy. I felt as if I was once again in the presence of fellow soldiers, who more than admittedly were not perfect people, who made decisions that I seriously questioned, or in my experiences in the Army, would sometimes label as another unquestioning 'Joe Rock.'

'Joe Rock' was a popular term in the military soldiers often used in a teasing way when any soldier never thought for himself, was overly complimentary to his superiors or was just plain dopey.

I loved my fellow soldiers dearly, and we always relied on each other, but in the confines of working together, not everyone got along, and the ‘Joe Rocks’ usually ran in gaggles. Sometimes 'Joe Rocks' could fall into a group mentality and do considerably questionable things in an attempt to impress one another.

This is the feeling I got over and over again while watching The Kill Team. I have watched a lot of military movies, and I can say, this film was the only film that affected me to this extent. I have to say, this aspect was pristine, well-played and 100 percent believable.

Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård, who plays Briggmans’ superior NCO, Sergeant Deeks, was also a bringer of unease. I was caught between wondering if he was a bit overly-stereotypical or literally playing a Seargent that did go to those extremes of an “over-the-top” soldier. I decided that he really was playing that type of soldier. Thus I felt more unease once again.

Nat Wolff portrays Spec. Briggman and Alexander Skarsgård plays Briggmans’ superior NCO, Sergeant Deeks

Nat Wolff portrays Spec. Briggman and Alexander Skarsgård plays Briggmans’ superior NCO, Sergeant Deeks

Without going into too much detail, and without revealing much in the way of spoilers, Briggman comes head to head with Deeks, a new NCO replacing a previous sergeant who met a terrible fate.

Deeks makes consistent ethically questionable choices and Briggman — wanting to both impress his fellow soldiers, his father, and Deeks — faces an unending series of life-altering choices.

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The outcome: War is ugly.

So I have been thinking to myself about the choices made in this film, always a great sign that a film has transcended into a real story that has affected a change in perspective for me in some way. 

I ask myself, ‘What if I was in some of these situations, to decide whether to kill or be killed? What would I do?’

Potential answers can haunt a person.

Just as Krauss’ The Kill Team did.

The Kill Team is an excellent and haunting film, believably acted, and flawlessly directed.

Now playing at select theaters. It is definitely worth watching. Even if the decisions demonstrate that if a person is put into a bad situation, they can potentially make terrible or life-altering choices.

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Follow the #NativeNerd, Vincent Schilling, associate editor for Indian Country Today

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Vincent Schilling is a certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes

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