The February 2013 arrest of Iraq War veteran Eddie Ray Routh points to a significant lack of post-traumatic stress counseling available to returning soldiers. “The Kill Hole,” the new film from director Mischa Webley, does a lot to help bridge that gap, though.
Starring next month as legendary baseball great Jackie Robinson in “42,” actor Chadwick Boseman is in top form here as Lt. Samuel Drake, an Iraqi War vet that’s still troubled by his combat experiences. While working as a cab driver, Drake deals with humanity at its best and worst. Boseman’s expressive face shows Sam’s anguish when confronted with drunken party girls and arrogant businessmen.
Sam’s past truly comes back to haunt him in the form of executives working for a private military contractor. They offer the veteran a mission that he cannot refuse, one that involves tracking a former comrade through the Oregon mountains.
Real-life veterans add authenticity to “The Kill Zone”
Actor Billy Zane rounds out the cast as Marshall, a counselor for Lt. Drake’s veteran’s support group. Marshall is a man of few words who speaks volumes with just a single sentence. “It was really an extraordinary character to play,” Zane explained when reached by phone for an interview.
Instead of hiring character actors, director Mischa Webley decided to cast real-life veterans. “We had some dialogue scripted in the counseling scenes with the veterans, which were, of course, real vets from Viet Nam through Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Even they had prepared monologues for the scene,” Zane said.
The actor went on to say that on the day of shooting, however, something happened that took them away from the written word.
“The sharing that was occurring while we were filming was so real and significant and meaningful that we told them to just roll with it. It helped [the veterans] to just roll with it. I had experience working with non-actors before. I just knew to let it happen organically,” Zane offered. “What happened was we filmed for what felt like 8 hours, but it was probably six. What transpired was probably one of the most significant experiences I have had.”
The actor said he also saw some interesting things emerge during those scenes. “One of the broadest common denominators that they shared was the difficulty they had in maintaining relationships– either before they were going [overseas] or that they simply could not deal with the experience of that relationship when they returned,” Zane said.
Overall, Zane thinks the treatment and handling of the film and subject matter is refreshingly delicate. “I am quite certain that many service men and women will find the experience of this movie to be healing,” he said.
“The Kill Hole” is currently playing in limited release. It will be widely available beginning on April 9.