The ironic Kubrickian title of the documentary Full Battle Rattle — taken from the term for a soldier dressed in complete combat gear — lets you know where its filmmakers stand politically more than any single scene in the film does. For those critics who have been talking this movie up since it won the Special Jury Prize at SXSW this spring, this hard stance of neutrality is commendable. But for anyone who believes that crypto neoconservative ideology and a profit motive — and not just simple incompetence — lies behind the Iraq War, Full Battle Rattle’s agnosticism will leave you dissatisfied.
In a backlot Iraq that the Army has constructed in California’s Mojave Desert, soon-to-be-deployed recruits participate in an elaborate role-playing game, with real Iraqi immigrants acting as the locals. War is hell is theater seems to be the thesis, but then if you’ve been paying attention for the last eight years, you already knew that.