The Drama of Occupation
Perhaps soldiers who're being sent to Iraq, or anticipate their eventual deployment, see these staged episodes as an essential opportunity. The group we follow seem to take it all quite seriously--except they're also constantly reminded that it's not real. The masterminds who're running the simulation will step in and advise trainees who've been 'wounded' to just stay down and take a rest--with fake blood dripping from their nostrils. It's kind of like watching the annual reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg--only all that blood was spilled in the past, and this blood will run in the future.
There's no saying how directors Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss managed to get such complete and seemingly uncensored access to the simulation area and to the doings of the soldiers of the 5-82 Battalion, but the film's verite scenario provides us with amazing insights about the underlying attitudes of both the soldiers and the people who're playing the locals.
A Revealing Trial Run
At the same time, it's revelatory and really disturbing to watch the 'Iraqis'--some of whom actually hail from other countries, but all of whom speak Arabic and most of whom are really American citizens who've been hired to do this Iraqi town simulation job at what one assumes are reasonably good wages--go through the motions of playing stereotypes of themselves, and laugh about it, and willingly submit to the bigotry, cultural insensitivity and pretend physical abuse and brutality of the soldiers. And there's an internal drama going on, too, because one of the Arabs playing a local is, in real life, facing possible deportation because he doesn't have a green card!
The whole represented by simulation compound is kind of twisted. And horrifying. And absurd. The situation seems to satirize itself, but its satire is somewhat sickening.
Ultimately, the fantasy of the simulation leads obliquely to a rather profound look at American self deception regarding Iraq, Islam, our nation's role in this troubled world and our use of our resources--including our able bodied young men.
Adding to the surreal spin of the war games and what they reveal about American military strategy and action in the Iraq War, President Bush pops into the simulation compound to rally the troops in training--and refers to the center as "an important theater" in the Iraq War. Let the play acting go on!
Unfortunately, the next theater in the 5-82 Battalion's tour of duty is Iraq. Full Battle Rattle doesn't follow them on their deployment, so we don't get to see what becomes of them when their rehearsal morphs into performance.
Full Battle Rattle
Directed by Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss
Parents Guide: Content advisory
Run time: 92 min[p}Company:Mile End Films