If you can handle the truth, Sarah Goodman’s entropic doc is as exquisite a basic training in banal U.S. Army culture as you’re likely to find. Her premise—following three New Yorkers enlisting after 9-11—had good odds of capturing the kind of hell-is-war disillusionment that Michael Moore employed to potboiling effect. Instead, the paths of her subjects—Sara Miller, a blankly directionless dance major; Thaddeus Ressler, a stock-trading soldier of fortune; and Nelson Reyes, a Bronx dropout—provide insight into the military’s function as instant peer group, instant frat party, and instant badge of integrity. When asked about the looming invasion, Miller deliberates, “I’m not all for war myself, but if I need to, I’ll go. It’s part of being in the army.” Of course, when stateside drudgery leads Reyes to desert, and the increasingly depressed Ressler to scourge his buff and willing comrades with cat-o’-nine-tails, Miller’s front-line deployment seems like victory. Goodman’s fairly unsympathetic specimens also get ample chance to display their reality show savvy. Though their panicky plights are undeniably real, both Reyes and Ressler’s somber yakking reveals that penchant for Survivor speechifying so de rigueur in the reality-TV-based community.
And speaking of speech, Army‘s accompanying short, Qaeda Quality Question Quickly Quickly Quiet, by Lenka Clayton, brilliantly splices the words of Bush’s “Axis of Evil” invective into alphabetical order. Aside from counting your “freedom”s, you can cower in “terror”s, chuckle at the tumble of “doctor, doctor, dollars, dollars,” and sniff at the saccharine caress of “children.” I won’t spoil the ending, but it just may prove the existence of intelligent design. And if QQQQQQ doesn’t make you think “America” sounds almost sinister excerpted from codes and context, I’m Saussure.