While a period of national service in the armed forces may seem a good idea in theory, this satirical Israeli film is likely a good depiction of what it means in practice: a lot of thoroughly unmotivated soldiers, who just want to kill time and GTFO back to civilian life. This may not seem like an inspiring subject for a movie, yet somehow, ends up an endearing and amusing look at life in the armed forces, when your chief responsibility is basically to be in charge of shredding unwanted documents. For there is, it appears, a lot of bureaucracy and shuffling of paperwork in the the Israeli army, and that’s what Daffi (Tagar), Zohar (Ivgy) and their colleagues have to do.
They work in the office of their base, under the wary guise of long-suffering matriarch officer Rama (Klein), who tries to encourage their military habits into concepts such as, “Being a paper shredding NCO is what you make of it.” Of course, being young women, they are more interested in men, personal drama and owning the office high-score on Minesweeper. Or in Daffi’s case, getting out of the desert and being sent to an urban post like Tel Aviv. That requires her completing officer training, but when she does, Daffi discovers exactly why Rama perpetually has that look, and sets up a staple-gun shoot-out (right) with Zohar, after Daffi tries to erase her games.
Writer-director Lavie based the script on her own experiences, saying, “Like most girls during their two years of service, we didn’t risk our lives. But we were definitely in danger of dying of boredom.” There’s definitely an air of Private Benjamin here, and in particular Goldie Hawn griping, “I joined a different army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms. ” While the conscripts here are under fewer illusions on their way in, it does a wonderful job of illustrating the gap between the broader perception of army life, and the tedious reality, which involves far more meetings, forms and guard duty. And for the last-named, not even the exciting stuff at the gates, but safely inside the base, where the sole “threat” is soldiers who can’t find the canteen.
The film is loosely divided into three sections, and it manages to juggle the comedic and dramatic elements quite nicely, so that some quite sharp shifts in tone are not too jarring. It’s certainly a concept which could easily be extended to a TV series – think M.A.S.H. in the Israeli desert, though I would certainly not have minded some more actual action. As is, the film may be almost the antithesis of what you’d expect in a “girls with guns” movie, yet you’d be hard-pushed to conclude this was a particularly bad thing. What it may lack in pulse-pounding, adrenalin-powered gunplay, is balanced by a selection of quirkily entertaining characters and a sharply-observed script.
Dir: Talya Lavie
Star: Nelly Tagar, Shani Klein, Dana Ivgy, Heli Twito