Take a Drink: whenever a soldier says something sociopathic as fuck
Take a Drink: with each meeting with the lawyer
Take a Drink: for each horrific story
Take a Drink: whenever this feels more like a Mob movie than what should be America’s finest
Do a Shot: are those poppies?
Do a Shot: for pictures
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
The Oscar Documentary category is an odd one for feature films. It’s the only place where you might find an HBO program or news special you caught on TV a few months back alongside a heavily marketed theatrical release that you need a NY or LA area code to have a hope of seeing before the Oscars.
Even Snowden’s damn movie is good at hiding.
The Kill Team is one of the former, airing on PBS next month, but it deserves its place on the Oscar shortlist just as much as its highly-touted brethren. It’s about the infamous Kill Team, a group of U.S. infantrymen who conspired to frame and murder several innocent Afghan civilians, and particularly Adam Winfield, who claims he was coerced into taking part, after trying to warn Army brass about what was happening and being ignored.
This documentary is about as single as it gets, interviewing Winfield, his family, and two other members of “The Kill Team”, and the soldier that ultimately successfully blew the whistle on them. What emerges is a portrait of this generation at war, a veil lifted by our current media-happy smartphone culture, but also the secret of every generation at war. How are these snapshots posing with corpses or videos of human destruction any different from the scalps or grisly totems of previous wars?
This is the single most effective anti-war document I’ve ever seen, because it shows us fairly ordinary young men calmly describing how they became monsters, essentially out of boredom and in search of the unique adrenaline rush combat provides. Are they indicative of every soldier? No, the whistleblower who too a mammoth beating for his troubles proves that. However, when you give a not insignificant portion of any population power, a gun, and someone to hate (justified by an us vs. them mentality), this is what you get.
The Kill Team also manages to pack an indictment of the military justice system and a poignant portrait of a family having to come to terms with an impossible situation in its brisk hour and a quarter runtime. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” mentality seems to have permeated more than just questions of sexual orientation (see The Invisible War to see its impact on rape culture). Their failure to act when warned directly resulted in more deaths and ostensibly Winfield’s life being ruined, and regardless of whether you think he was a coward placed in an impossible situation or someone more guilty than they’re letting on, his parents’ anguish at what that failure to act cost them, and how this prosecution basically covers up the military’s negligence by giving them non-officers to blame this “one-time occurrence” on, is both affecting and disheartening.
There’s a nagging feeling that something’s missing here. Focusing on Winfield and particularly his family is undeniably affecting, but he wasn’t really the scapegoat he was present as. What about the guy who got 24 years? Or Sgt. Gibbs, the mixture of Channing Tatum and Jeffrey Dahmer who everyone blames for their actions? And why did Winfield pose so nonchalantly for that photograph with the body?
Tatyum? More like Tatethrowawaythefuckingkey.
The Babadook was really fucking scary. It doesn’t hold a candle to this film. The scariest part isn’t what The Kill Team did, or their too believable assertion that their crimes aren’t uncommon. No, it’s the nagging feeling that this is the inescapable product of our casually violent culture, dehumanizing propaganda, and the mixture of boredom and danger that typifies the wartime experience. It only takes one Sgt. Gibbs.