Review: War of morals fought in invigorating 'Kill Team'

Alexander Skarsgård plays an intimidating Army Sergeant in this small scale story about loyalty, ethics and modern warfare

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A soldier is conflicted ethically and morally in "The Kill Team," an involving story of the ways war corrupts from within. 

Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff) is a young U.S. private sent to Afghanistan in 2009. We see him early on in his home, playing war in his bedroom, excitedly preparing for the real thing.  

Nat Wolff and Alexander Skarsgård in "The Kill Team."

His reality turns out to be much different, as he and his team are tasked with building community relations with locals. It's not the live action video game he was expecting. But when his squad leader is killed, his new superior Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård) tests his loyalty in ways he's not expecting.

Deeks colors outside the lines. He speaks with a quiet intensity that hints at underlying malevolence. He gives Briggman a promotion, but makes him fight one of his fellow cadets for the position. And he's not above capturing and torturing a perceived enemy, bending the rules to fit whatever narrative he chooses.

Writer-director Dan Krauss, who also made the 2013 documentary upon which the film is loosely based, sets up the story as a showdown between Briggman and Deeks. After Deeks participates in and encourages the murder of civilians, Briggman is torn between reporting him and staying loyal to his team, and what the implications of either choice mean in terms of pledging allegiance to the flag.  

Wolff is credible as a young, impressionable soldier, but it's Skarsgård who steals the show with his menacing glare and steely ferocity. It's a small scale performance but he plays it with just the right mixture of authority and corruption, which makes it all the more frightening – and believable.

'The Kill Team'


Rated R: for language throughout, violent content and drug use

Running time: 88 minutes