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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
American military authority is the enemy for Pvt. Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell), a nonconformist trainee who, along with other infantry trainees, endures brutal, sadistic treatment in preparation for combat in Vietnam. Tigerland is a swampy, steamy camp near Fort Polk, Louisiana that is supposed to simulate conditions in Vietnam. The story is set in 1971.
The amount and severity of physical and verbal aggression displayed in this film may be a tad overstated. But the point the film is making is that many, if not most, of the young guys drafted into the army in the late 60s and early 70s absolutely did not want, or deserve, to be there.
Roland Bozz is one of those young men. He's angry at the war, angry at the army. The army won't release him because they know that's what he wants. If Bozz can't get himself out, the next best thing is to try and get other recruits out. That will be his revenge, his way to fight the system.
A fellow trainee shares his background with Bozz, who then tells the trainee: "I know army regulations the way prisoners know the law. You're a hardship discharge, man, if ever I saw one. Okay. I'll get you out of the army". Bravo for Roland Bozz, a young rebel with a mission, a cause, trapped like the others by an oppressive, controlling institution.
Acting is very, very good. Colin Farrell is terrific, at a time when he, and the rest of the cast, was largely unknown. No need for overpaid A-list actors. The film's acting style trends naturalistic, spontaneous, and emotionally intense. None of the acting seems forced.
With a hand-held camera, combined with grainy film stock, and using quick zooms and unexpected cuts, the cinematography and editing convey a documentary look and feel, which results in sequences that are quite realistic. Lighting is mostly natural. Sets are plain and unadorned. Background music is minimal.
Much better than I ever expected, "Tigerland" is a well-made film with an intense, anti-war theme. It's about putting others ahead of one's own selfish interest. That Hollywood largely shunned this low-budget film is all the more reason to see it.
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