Full Battle Rattle
Time Out says
A vaguely Middle Eastern drone plays under handheld shots of troops charging through the desert toward a dusty village. Your brain registers what’s now very familiar docu-imagery—this is Iraq, got it—before strobe-light cuts transform war vérité into an action-film trailer. Machine guns are fired, medics bandage a ghastly leg wound, and blood literally runs into the street. Then someone calls a time-out, and everyone buys ice cream. This isn’t a Tikrit battle zone, but an elaborate U.S. Army base in the Mojave desert that’s designed to prep soldiers on their way to the real thing. Even more interesting is the social infrastructure of civilian role-players who call this microcosm home, as well as “consultants” who pull the strings behind the scenes.
Filmmakers Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss have such an abundance of metatextual material to root through—from Iraqi-Americans pretending to be insurgents to the in-house manufactured media reporting—that it’s a pity they stick to a superficial overview of the training process itself. Any implicit big-picture issues about the blurring of reality are largely left unexplored in favor of merely filming faux skirmishes and frustratingly brief, banal testimonials. No one expected a Baudrillard essay on the perils of sim cities, but such a heady subject deserves more than a skim job.