In ‘The Kill Team,’ directed by Dan Krauss, US Army soldiers find themselves in Afghanistan’s Kandahar to get closer to Taliban bombers who are responsible for killing many of their own. While war isn’t supposed to be pretty, some soldiers in the 2019 war film start questioning the methods of their superiors in tackling the situation. These soldiers with doubts are mostly the protagonist, Andrew Briggman, and Marquez, who always has an issue with his peers smoking hashish.
While Briggman and Marquez don’t get off on the right foot, since Briggman has to fight with him for the team leader position, their narratives align when they both individually start resisting the tactics that everyone in their group seems to be comfortable with. As Marquez eventually plays a major role in the lives of all the soldiers and Sergeant Deeks, it makes us question how authentic his character portrayal is. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Marquez Seems to be Inspired by Justin Stoner
Even if Dan Krauss hasn’t directly admitted that the character of Marquez is inspired by a real soldier, he has explained that all the soldiers are based on what he learned from everyone he interviewed from ‘The Kill Team’ in his 2013 documentary of the same name. In this case, Marquez seems to closely resemble the real soldier, Justin Stoner, who came to be known as the major whistleblower of the case. In 2010, five soldiers from a unit based in Afghanistan were charged with the murder of innocent civilians, excluding Stoner, since he was responsible for revealing the true crimes of the unit.
According to the real investigation, Stoner returned from leave after the third murder relevant to the case had already happened. He then allegedly reported his team members for drug use in his room, which he didn’t want to be involved with. This led to their Staff Sergeant Gibbs and the others of the team, excluding Adam Winfield, who plays the lead role of Briggman in the film, beating him up so he would stay quiet. But Stoner didn’t want to stay in that place and reported the incident to Gibbs’ superior. He then left the place and cooperated with the investigators to reveal everything about the alleged murders the team had committed.
In the film, Marquez does something similar, but the chronology of the events is different for a fictional portrayal of the soldiers. In the movie, too, Marquez initially protests against his roommates smoking hashish and complains about them to the CIA. This happens much before the murder in which Briggman is also involved, unlike the events narrated in the real investigation. When Marquez is caught, he is beaten up by everyone in Gibbs’ crew, excluding Briggman, just like the real incident. But after that, Marquez is apparently sent somewhere for months, and when he comes back after the third murder in which Briggman was also involved, he has exposed all of them.
Where Is Justin Stoner Now?
Justin Stoner belongs to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and was only 22-years-old at the time he was called to testify against his colleagues in what came to be known as the Maywand District murders. While he had initially just complained about the drug use, when he was beaten up and allegedly shown severed fingers of Afghans by Gibbs, he felt the need to report the incident, thereby exposing Bravo Company’s soldiers.
Stoner was among the soldiers who presented his testimony in Krauss’ 2013 documentary and later claimed that he did not want to be referred to as a whistle-blower. Not much is known about Stoner’s current whereabouts since he has kept his life private after the incident. Since he was not charged with any crimes and was honorably discharged after the case in 2012, he started working as a member of the Army Reserve around the time the documentary came out.
In an interview, the director also speaks about Stoner and similarly feels that he didn’t want the title of whistleblower because Stoner felt conflicted about accidentally blowing the whistle on everyone in the unit because he stood up against something that he felt was wrong. “He wants to make amends. He’s in a weird position where he feels he could be the victim of retribution, in the worst case, but he also has something to say,” said Strauss about Stoner.