“Kilo Two Bravo” Movie Review


     With the deplorable attacks on Paris still fresh in our minds, the debate will now shift back to how the terrorists responsible will be fought and ultimately defeated.  ISIS is an enemy not much different than the one we did battle with in Vietnam, in that the war will be waged on their home turf, making it difficult to ensure a winning strategy.  Since 9/11, the U.S. and coalition forces have been fighting this battle both in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to quell the Taliban and stop future terrorism plots at their source.  Certainly, there are many stories to be told from the last 14 years of this war, each likely to contain the kind of gut wrenching details that make hearing about them or seeing them dramatized almost unbearable. “Kilo Two Bravo”, the feature film debut of Paul Katis, sets out to tell one of those stories and does so with such brutal and shocking realism that I was left anxious and uncomfortable for nearly the entire 108 minute running time. Put simply, this may be one of the most convincing war films ever made.

     A veteran of Desert Storm myself, the early scenes in “Kilo Two Bravo” were eerily familiar.  Tom Williams screenplay does an effective job of setting up the story with many of the minor details the audience would need to understand the day to day in these soldier’s lives.  Sometime in 2006, a British Army unit is tasked with maintaining a high ground operations post near the Kajaki Dam in Afghanistan.  We are never really clued in to what their mission is, but they are likely there to hold ground gained in a previous conflict and surveil the area for Taliban activity.  Even by film’s end, we won’t know these soldiers in terms of personality as you would and expect to learn from a traditional character, but we do know the constraints they operate in. At the top of a near by mountain, the soldiers live in a small camp constructed of large rocks and sandbags.  The makeshift buildings they sleep in are surrounded by similarly constructed listening and observation posts which give them a view miles in every direction.

     At the beginning of the film, we follow along as a small cargo vehicle arrives at the camp with supplies.  Soldiers receive mail and care packages.  They barter with one another for valuable goods they have come by, in one case that being a few cans of fruit cocktail.  It’s hot and even in a war zone, the uniform standards appear lax since being comfortable seems to be the priority.  Soldiers get around in cut off shorts and flip flops as they laugh and joke with each other in an effort to help the days pass.  Their demeanor is actually quite positive, but I know in reality they believe they’re in hell.  If the gun battles they observe going on below are not a clear indication of this, then the situation they find themselves in during a routine patrol will cement that belief.

     Newsrooms across the world frequently report on war time scenarios as being “horrific” and in a way the conventions filmmakers use when assembling scenes in a war movie come directly from horror films.  There are those moments that make both the characters and the audience jump and in many cases the result leaves someone dead or maimed.  In telling the story here, Katis uses those elements to depict the harrowing situation these men faced.  As a small fire team makes their way through a dried out river bed, one of them steps on a land mine, losing one of his legs and one of his hands in the process.  This immediately raises the tension in everyone’s mind since running over to help their wounded teammate means possibly stepping on another mine.  For the rest of the film (at least 75 minutes), Katis never lets that tension ease up.  I would liken it to Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” in that we have a crook, who we later learn is an undercover cop, suffering from a gun shot wound to the stomach from the very beginning until the very end.  In the case of “Kilo Two Bravo”, even a rock rolling down the hill into the river bed will make you seize up in hopes it doesn’t set off another mine.

     Several men proved to be heroes that day with their selfless acts, putting themselves in imminent danger in order to somehow try to save others who weren’t so lucky.  A doctor assigned to the unit named Tug (Mark Stanley) responds to the call for help and treats the initial casualty, but the situation quickly gets worse as others are also injured.  In one memorable, yet difficult to watch scene, Tug uses his medical bag to check for mines in order to clear a path to a group of severely wounded men, knowing each time he throws the bag and ducks, a mine could blow up right in his face.  And yet he does so in an effort to do his job, as he knows each of these men or depending on him as their only hope.  The ensemble cast all have their moments in what is a well acted film from start to finish.  His and the actions of many others are truly extraordinary.  Along with Stanley, David Elliot, Scott Kyle, Andy Gibbons, Paul Luebke, Robert Mitchell, Malachi Kirby, Benjamin O’Mahony, and every other actor that makes an appearance do a solid job in contributing to the overall tone of the film, effectively creating a camaraderie that feels real.

     There’s no question Katis and his team have successfully created an outstanding piece of work here, but that doesn’t mean I felt good when it was over.  I actually felt horrible.  Sick even.  Seeing these young men in a situation where they were helpless and unable to use their training to survive really forces you to think about the sacrifices our men and women in the Armed Forces are willing to make in the name of the freedoms so many people take for granted nowadays.  But this is what it will take.  We’ve seen all too often what this enemy is capable of and how they choose to fight.  Katis’ film doesn’t even allow a second of screen time to anyone that would be considered the enemy.  Instead, he tells the story of an unseen enemy who knew his adversaries would be using that river bed for transportation purposes and left a cowardly calling card.  And that is who we are fighting.  A bunch of cowards.  GRADE: B+