‘The Kill Team’ is a war film directed by Dan Krauss, inspired by his own 2013 documentary film of the same name and a Rolling Stone article. It provides a dramatized account of the incidents during the war in Afghanistan, where the soldiers stationed in Kandahar, including Andrew Briggman and Rayburn, are on a mission to identify Taliban bombers responsible for killing fellow US Army soldiers.
They are headed by the ruthless Staff Seargent Deeks, who takes a liking to Rayburn who wastes no time in proving his loyalty to the leader. While the story follows Briggman, Rayburn forms a huge part of his life, since he always craves Rayburn’s approval despite knowing that their moral values don’t align. Since Rayburn’s character has such a hold over the protagonist, and he seems to fit perfectly in the narrative, it makes one wonder how real his story is.
Rayburn Seems to be Based on Corporal Jeremy Morlock
Rayburn isn’t directly based on a real person but is certainly inspired by soldiers who were part of the real story. While Krauss has admitted that the characters of Briggman and Deeks are based on real people, he hasn’t expressly revealed the same for Rayburn. However, he maintains that all the major characters of the soldiers, one of which is Rayburn, have been inspired mostly by the conversations and inputs he got from the soldiers he worked with for his documentary.
Out of all the soldiers in his documentary, we believe Rayburn seems to be inspired the most by the real Corporal Jeremy Morlock, who was one of the five soldiers charged with murdering innocent Afghan locals alongside Adam Winfield, Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon and Staff Seargent Calvin Gibbs. When the soldiers started getting investigated in 2010, Morlock allegedly confessed to the murders without indicating Gibbs’ involvement. But later, he changed his testimony and admitted that the three murders in question were orchestrated by Gibbs, who was their leader.
Morlock’s charges went beyond premeditated murder, but he got a reduced sentence of 24 years in prison, as opposed to a life sentence, for testifying against others involved in the case. The character of Rayburn seems inspired by Morlock because of the similarities in the nature and situations of the two men. For instance, Rayburn, like the real Morlock, became the right-hand man of the Staff Seargent in the film, willing to kill at ease without showing remorse. The investigation records also state that Gibbs had allegedly given a grenade to his closest aide, Morlock, to kill innocent Afghan civilians, which is also depicted in the movie when Rayburn secretly receives the grenade from Deeks while Briggman watches them.
In another real testimony from Winfield, Morlock allegedly planned the attacks on civilians with Gibbs and roped in Holmes for the first murder in the investigation the soldiers have reportedly been charged with. Similarly, in the film, Rayburn conspires with Seargent Deeks and ropes in Coombs to carry out the murders. The investigation has also revealed pictures of Morlock and Holmes with the bodies of the civilians, indicating a very insensitive side to this operation.
While in the movie, no such pictures are taken, the characters of Rayburn and Coombs depict a similar carefree attitude about killing innocent people and rejoice in their victories. Moreover, in the movie, Rayburn also plays a major role in covering up these killings by placing guns and grenades near the victims to make it look like they attacked the soldiers first. In the real investigation, Morlock and Gibbs’ role in covering up such incidents has also been discussed.
Another crucial similarity that the investigation highlights is related to Morlock getting suspicious of Winfield’s intentions and loyalty towards them. Morlock has claimed to have discussed with Gibbs how Winfield was likely to be a rat, and the best way to prevent that would be if he murdered someone himself. In the movie, too, Rayburn and Deeks put pressure on Briggman to kill a civilian, which he eventually does. Rayburn also starts getting suspicious of Briggman when he notices him chatting with someone on his laptop. Apparently, even if there’s no confirmation about Rayburn being inspired by Morlock, his character seems to truly reflect everything we know about the latter.