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In September 1971, a platoon of recruits arrives in Ft. Polk, LA, for infantry training before leaving for war. The final week takes place in Tigerland, a swamp similar to Vietnam. Jim Paxton has enlisted; he wants to experience everything and write books later. He befriends Roland Bozz, a cool Texan with a gift for getting into trouble and for helping misfits get discharges. At least one sociopath in the platoon hates Bozz, even as the sergeants grudgingly recognize his leadership abilities. As the platoon heads into its week in Tigerland, Paxton's body gives out, Bozz makes plans to go AWOL, and the sociopath gets hold of live ammo. Is the Louisiana swamp more dangerous than the DMZ? Written by
Another risky movie from Joel Schumacher; good technical qualities and great acting. ***1/2 (out of four)
TIGERLAND / (2000) ***1/2 (out of four)
By Blake French:
Throughout the years audiences have seen and understood war films with every point of view possible, and somehow producers and writers always come up with new and innovative methods of portraying various soldiers on the battlefield. Joel Schumacher ("8MM," "A Time to Kill"), easily one of the riskiest directors currently working, has found resemblance with "The Thin Red Line" in the way his new drama "Tigerland" steps in an individual soldier's shoes. This movie, written by Ross Klavan and Michael McGuther, has more guts and irony than "The Thin Red Line" or even "Saving Private Ryan." Although the movie's dramatic impact is somewhat lessened due to the perversity of the material present, it certainly enlightens us on a new perspective of young men training for war.
I would want to know Joel Schumacher's experiences with the army. Are the men really this unabashed and brutal? I am sure some of them are, but the movie views its uncompromising world through the eyes of a young man named Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell), who is rebellious against the ideas of war. His personality instantly counteracts with several other characters, one who becomes his best friend, Paxton (Matthew Davis), and another, Wilson (Russell Richardson), whose flamed temper often exasperates Bozz's tension with the idea of going to war. The war depicted in this production is not found on a battlefield, but on training grounds of a Louisiana-based instruction camp between conceptions and fears of the soldiers in training. This film is specifically about the preparation for war, nothing more nothing less. It ends when the soldiers finally go to war, kind of disappointing since witnessing the characters in action would have served as a supurb payoff.
Shot on location in about 28 days using 16mm stock and a minuscule budget, Joel Schumacher accurately displays a gritty, perverse, cruel, and unmerciful atmosphere using hand-held cinematography, unique lighting techniques and direct sound. Schumacher's grainy and blown-out images make the movie feel like a documentary feature. This unusual style of filmmaking only contributes to the hard core realism of the movie, quite graphic in its use of coarse language, perhaps a little too disturbing. Waves of four-letter words pound the audience, some in shock of what they are hearing. Even the extreme amount of vulgarism does not keep the dialogue from prevailing as heartbreaking, true, and emotional.
If anything, "Tigerland" provides us with a minor appreciation of how much our soldiers go through for our country in the beginning stages of combat. Such bravery must it take to enlist in the army during times of war, knowing the hardships and risks that are being taken. Such thought-provoking ideas are made possible through the heartbreaking performances by the young aspiring actors who portray the various trainees. This movie is not for all audiences, but one that young men should take a look at before enlisting themselves in the army...and adult audiences should watch to appreciate the courage needed to do such.
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