The Kill Team ★★★

In 2001, the United States began to wage the endless War in Afghanistan. In 2006, the U.S. Army retired the most enduring slogan it had ever used — “Be All that You Can Be” — and replaced it with “Army of One.” It didn’t take. So the marketing team went back to the drawing board and came back with a tagline so popular that it would be in active service for the next 12 years: “Army Strong.”

It was short, it was aspirational, and — unlike the two previous slogans — it shifted focus away from the soldier. “Army Strong” wasn’t about self-improvement or individual power, even if it subtly promised to confer those things on all who heeded the call. It was saying, in brute terms, that the Army is strength. That must have been a difficult message to internalize for the soldiers who were sent halfway across the world just to flex their country’s muscles. How were they supposed to restore the might that made sense of their mission?

Some version of that question has haunted Dan Krauss since at least 2013, when his powerful documentary “The Kill Team” explored the circumstances behind an infamous series of murders that U.S. soldiers committed against Afghan civilians in the Kandahar Province. But with the war in Afghanistan still raging six years later, Krauss hasn’t been able to move on. If anything, he’s only grown more committed to sharing what that story has to say about the atrocities that can happen when soldiers don’t feel culpable for the army they serve, or the killing they do in its name. With his new narrative film, also called “The Kill Team,” Krauss is effectively cranking up the volume on a story that he’s desperate for people to hear. As lucid and intense as it is underwritten, his second crack at the Maywan District murders might be much less nuanced than his first, but this riveting thriller still manages to amplify its subject much louder than Krauss has been able to before.

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