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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.
Sold as a war movie, this film is more like the first half of Full Metal Jacket than a full on war movie set in a combat zone. As such it plays more like a drama than any sort of antiwar movie or outright thriller. The focus of the film is the character of Bozz as told from the biographical point of view of Paxton. The events of the film are pretty predictable for anyone who has seen this type of film before - the internal fights, the crazy soldiers, the domineering sergeant majors etc. However it still manages to be enjoyable and entertaining even if it never really feels original or new. It is a pretty nondescript film with no specific edge on it - and that is part of the reason I think it really didn't do that good business when it was released here in the UK. It relies very heavily on the characters to keep the audience involved in the story and preventing it being seen as just a collection of old ideas; this aspect is helped by the fact that it is drawing on original material, experiences and people.
A much bigger part of the characters being engaging is the playing of them by the cast. Farrell is the lead actor and is miles ahead of everyone else. This film is one of many that made him the star he now is, and he does deserve it off the back of this and he is really good here - coming across as likeable and difficult. Outside of him, everyone plays well but are generally in their various stereotypes; aside from Farrell, Collins is the standout role - too often seen playing gang bangers and such on TV cops shows, he delivers a solid character and presents a believable breakdown over the course of the film.
Keeping my habit of never paying to see an Schumacher film since Batman & Robin took the last faith in his talent, I waited for this to come onto TV. I was surprised however to see that Schumacher managed to do the film without spoiling it - in fact he came across as rather able! He uses mainly handheld cameras and delivers a gritty feel to the whole film that is fitting to the material. I hate to admit it, but he actually did a reasonable job here and he has now done a couple of films that he hasn't ruined in one way or another! I may have to change my mind about not paying for his films - well, maybe not.
Overall this is a rather undistinguished film but one that is enjoyable as a character driven drama, trading on the usual clichés of the genre. It goes where you more or less expect it to but it goes there and takes you with it. Farrell makes a good leading man and on this evidence he is worthy of leading man status where he has good support.
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Dolby Digital
Louisiana, 1971: During basic training, a rebellious army conscript (Colin Farrell) causes dissension within the ranks.
Given Joel Schumacher's reputation as a schlockmeister par excellence, most critics were caught off-guard by this low-budget drama, filmed without any of the frills and fripperies normally associated with Hollywood blockbusters, and headlined by little more than obscure (but hugely experienced) character actors and talented newcomers, including Farrell, whose bravura performance launched him to international stardom. Far removed from the extravagant Vietnam-operas favored by Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone, Schumacher's film examines the contradictions of war and the dehumanizing effect of combat on ordinary men through the experiences of Farrell's anti-hero, a compassionate man who despises the self-serving patriotic nonsense peddled by his superiors, and who refuses to compromise his own ideals, despite the sometimes painful repercussions of his disobedience.
Though backed by a major studio, TIGERLAND has the look and feel of a low-budget indie production, using hand-held camera-work and grainy film-stock for documentary effect, and this uncompromising 'Dogme'-like approach allows Schumacher to focus his attention on the characters and their situation rather than the pyrotechnics which usually dominate such movies. Farrell may be the star of the show, but he's matched by debut actor Matthew Davis (BLOODRAYNE) as his closest friend and fellow combatant, an aspiring writer who volunteered for duty and who favors intellect and reason over Farrell's reckless bravado. Fine supporting cast, excellent technical credits.
Everyone here is grouping it with other war movies, this movie has been miscategorized! Its not a war movie any more than "One flew over the cuckoos nest" is a asylum movie or "Cool Hand Luke" is a prison movie. This is a movie about individuality, nonconformity, self-confidence and the costs of that personality type.
The plot is the same as "One flew over the Cuckoos nest" and "Cool Hand Luke", its in GOOD company, and it holds its own. Its these movies it should be held up against and compared, not "Apocalypse Now" or "Platoon".
A surprisingly non-commercial film directed by Joel Schumacher. He uses a hand-held camera throughout most of the movie and uses digital video for the combat scenes. It works very well--the film looks gritty (as it should) and uncomfortably realistic.
Farrell successfully covers up his Irish brogue and adopts a pretty convincing Southern accent. His performance is just superb--he's an extremely talented young man. Davis, unfortunately, is not that good. He's tall, muscular, very handsome--and very bland. The rest of the cast however is just great.
This film was thrown away by its studio. It had no stars in it, a familar story and was considered "just another war film". It only played a week in Boston! It's well worth catching on video or DVD.
Also, Farrell and Davis have a lengthy nude scene.
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.
In case you're interested in more underrated masterpieces, here's some of my favorites:
As for being most definetly a career move, it´s a very clever one. Right after the intriguingly flawed "Falling Down" (1993) Mr. Schumacher was trying to kill his reputation by playing the hired-gun-director in a both megalomaniac and boring string of alternating John-Grisham- and Batman-movies. Somebody must have told him or maybe he sensed it himself, for "Flawless" (1999) and even "8 MM" (1998)tried to be real, stand-alone-movies and not part of a merchandising campaign. "Tigerland" looks like an even more radical departure from mainstream-big-bucks-movie-making. No stars, hand held camera, bleached out colors, blurred images: any- and everything in here - while Mr. Schumacher starts increasingly resembling a real director, an artist who cares about his art again - is shouting: ART! IMPORTANT! MESSAGE!
But that´s exactly the point where the problems start to overshadow the movie´s clever performance. Not for a single moment does "Tigerland" know weather it wants to be an anti-Vietnam movie in particular or an anti-war movie in general or a study on the effects of harsh, often even inhuman military training on young, unsuspecting males or a melodramatic comedy or a buddy movie or a too-clever-for-its-own-good-remake of Walter Hill´s masterpiece "Southern Comfort" (1981). If you don´t believe me check out the young leading man´s motivations and actions. He is introduced as a troublemaker who just can´t help causing trouble because the army and he match like heaven and hell. Keeping up some pretense of staying in character the film makers show him arranging to go A.W.O.L while constantly fighting his somehow dim witted and brutish superiors. But they´re not that brutal and dim witted as not to notice that our anti-war-hero is the best soldier in the whole rookie-platoon and a born leader too. Consequently he doesn´t leave camp but acknowledges his responsibilities. The longer the movie is running the more does it back my suspicion that for box-office-reasons Mr. Schumacher secretly wants his audience to root for "Tigerland"´s hero because of his warrior´s abilities and not because of his contrasting, alas half-hearted tries to desert the army. Needless to say that this attitude undermines any of the film´s pretenses to be more than the average war-is-hell-but-someone-has-to-do-the-job-flick.
Don´t let "Tigerland´s" visual design fool you. And in case you want to see a really good movie about the effects of war an young men, give John Irvin´s much underrated, and unjustly so, "Hamburger Hill" (1987) a second chance.
I was doing the basic training to be a weekend warrior and avoid Vietnam. But I saw so many of the kids who were just like the ones portrayed in the film it was actually a rather nerve wrecking old home week. In 1971 everyone except the policy makers in Washington knew that this was going to end when as Senator George Aiken declared, we said we won and then went home. And of course the South Vietnamese government we were protecting would fold like a napkin.
By that time the army was scraping the bottom for soldier material and you can see it in the company of men that are in Tigerland. This is where more soldiers shipped for Vietnam than any other place in the nation. The Louisiana swamps best approximated the climate conditions of Vietnam.
This particular company has a real odd ball in it with Colin Farrell. He's doing his best to get out of the army, but the army just won't oblige him. So he's waging his own war against them by becoming a 'barracks lawyer' and getting others out. And he's driving the officers and NCOs quite nuts doing it.
I would rate Tigerland a lot higher because there is much I liked about the film. It was not shot at Fort Polk, but in places that gave you feel of the place. What I remember best about it was rain and mud. In that summer of 1971 it rained nearly every single day I was there. But the rain and sometimes it would come a few times a day. Would be a sudden downpour, maybe at most 20 minutes then it would cool off and then resume being muggy. And the ground couldn't absorb it fast enough so it was always muddy. You did your best work in that brief period after rain stopped it was then actually decent enough for normal activities.
What I couldn't quite grasp was Colin Farrell's motivations for what he was doing. I blame that on the writer and also the director.
As for the other players the best in the cast was Thomas Guiry playing this poor sad sack kid from the Louisiana bayous. I met a few just like him, he stopped his formal education at the 6th grade. It was a touching performance on Guiry's part.
So here's to Fort Polk, not a place I recommend, but sometimes a place which is needed to train our soldiers. It got a good film, but not a great one in its honor.
It's 1971. Colin Farrell and Mathew Davis are friends, sort of, just out of basic training, now in infantry school in the Louisiana. The final week is spent at an isolated camp which replicates the conditions of Vietnam, called Tigerland. Soldiers speak of Tigerland in hushed, frightened voices.
I don't know why they dread it so much because, as it turns out, except for one psychopathic maniac, it's not that much worse than infantry school. The sergeants should foul curses at the men, shove them, kick them, beat them to the ground and literally make them eat dirt.
Plaudits for the photography, the casting, the performances, and the direction, which, thank Bog, doesn't use a wobbling camera except for a few minutes during a live fire exercise. No CGIs and no slow motion action. Nobody runs away from an exploding fireball. Nothing explodes. What a relief.
The plot is an amalgam of elements familiar from other stories. There is the non-conformist who invites disaster by not cowering like everyone else -- "From Here To Eternity," "Cool Hand Luke." The soldier who is a natural leader of men but continually turns down responsibility -- "To Hell And Back," "Fixed Bayonets." The main message of the movie shouldn't raise anyone's hackles. Vietnam was a pointless shedding of blood, but it's not the Army's fault. They do everything possible to prepare the men for combat, even if it looks (and is) sadistic. The war was foolish but the men in uniform aren't to blame. How can it be wrong?
The whole character of Roland Bozz (memorably played by Colin Farrell) is utterly intriguing. He's a bit overblown: A would-be perfect soldier, perfect leader, perfect shot, in perfect physical and mental condition. . .a rough, cynical, yet still paradoxically gentle character who just doesn't like armies and war and killing. Nevertheless, I think it would have detracted from the film if Bozz were not a bit larger-than-life. Ditto for the other characters, including the sergeants (both the cruel, sadistic, war-maddened ones and the tough but professional ones) and the other trainees (an interesting and convincing bunch of mixed motivations). While TIGERLAND's plot is quite gripping, it's essentially a character-driven film in the end, and the exemplary acting by just about everyone is what makes it such a success.
I've noticed some other reviewers'--some of whom actually trained at Fork Polk during the Vietnam years--objections to TIGERLAND's depiction of the U.S. Army, particularly in regards to its training methods and employment of borderline-psychotic instructors. Duly noted, but it's safe to say that the U.S. military HAS made ample use of such methods/people at various times and places in the past. The film may not be perfectly realistic in every respect; however, it's also important to remember that it's set at a time when America, though still anemically hoping to win in Vietnam and still sending unfortunate draftees to same, was also trying to extricate itself from a war whose futility was becoming increasingly obvious. TIGERLAND captures the special malaise of the early '70s war with dead-eyed accuracy. Most importantly of all, it's a compelling portrayal of an anti-hero fighting against an army and system that doesn't play by any fair rules--not even its own.
Directed by Joel Schumacher, Tigerland stars Colin Farrell as Private Roland Bozz, a reluctant recruit to the war effort who upsets his superiors by having a canny knack for exploiting loop holes in the rule book. However, it's evident that Bozz has leadership qualities, but can the officers convince him he is born to lead?
By the time of Tigerland's release, the Vietnam movie had apparently run its course. The announcement that Joel Schumacher was to delve into the conflict for his next movie was met with less than enthusiastic responses. This was after all the director who had not too long prior reduced the once darkly watchable Batman franchise to comedy campy ham overdrive. Alarm bells were further starting to go off when it was revealed that it was to be a short low budget shoot of 28 days, with a cast of unknowns and filmed in grainy 16 millimetre. Yet two things were forgotten by his many detractors. One was that Schumacher had showed himself capable of guiding a young vibrant cast to high levels of watch-ability (The Lost Boys), and two, that he had made Falling Down in the early 90s, thus tricky and darker edged material was not beyond him.
Tigerland is a fine film, there is no actual conflict to observe other than the interactions between Bozz, his fellow squadies and his superiors. This is more boot camp drama than a film about military engagements. But the impact is much the same as our group of young men prepare for a fate that doesn't exactly have favourable odds; their respective reasons for being there in the first place containing varying degrees of bravado or disbelief. To which, much to his initial bemusement, Bozz simultaneously becomes a beacon of hope to many and a figure for revilement. The out-shot of this is that Tigerland winds up an expertly crafted movie, one that is propelled by great acting and one that quietly sneaks up on you and cloaks you in sadness.
Schumacher is not the sole reason for why the film works so well though, he had some quality help. Ross Klavan and Michael McGruther's screenplay rises above the character clichés that exist in every army training camp based movie. Helped enormously by Klavan drawing on his real life experiences in the army, Tigerland doesn't hurtle towards its climax (a climax that is understated and poignant), it takes its time, characters are formed and with the then unknown Farrell on stupendously bewitching form, it's as engaging as a Vietnam film gets. This in spite of the grim look of the piece as Matthew Libatique's cinematography strips away vibrant colours and uses murky greys and greens to put the viewer right in there with them at boot camp. The look, the feel and the story all pull together nicely, making Tigerland fit to be mentioned in the same breath as those popular Vietnam movies from the previous decades. 8/10
The script is rather strange however . It rightly points out the unpopularity of the Vietnam war and how the American army was totally demoralised by it in 1971 . By this time American officers and NCOs were in as much danger of being fragged by their own men than by the enemy and there were almost as many servicemen being treated for opium poisoning in South East Asia than were treated for battlefield wounds , but this leads to a major plothole : Why are so many Americans still accepting the draft when they don`t want to ? I do notice that Bozz takes the part of a barrack room lawyer and allows some of these extremely reluctant recruits to be exempted which means they don`t have to emigrate or look over their shoulder on the run from the draft but it`s almost as if they knew they`d be meeting Bozz at boot camp . Doesn`t this strike you as hopelessly contrived ? And I`m very confused as to why Bozz wants to stay in the army since he doesn`t want to be there either
All in all TIGERLAND is a success down to its rising star and director . But be warned if you`re a lover of blood and guts war films you`ll be rather disappointed and ironically if you hate war films you`ll also hate this too
The movie manages to put a new spin on an already ancient subject, and manages to distance itself from usual war movies, especially by focusing on an anti-hero from the view-point of traditional standard. The movie focuses on the tragic character of Bozz, who smartly avoids being sucked in by the dehumanizing war machine, and refuses to give up control over his destiny and fight for something he doesn't believe in, spends his energy in searching ways to avoid being sent overseas, both for himself and comrades and ironically ends up finding his own just reason for finally going to war. Perfect irony.
The acting is truly exceptional, and the documentary-style shooting almost makes you feel transposed into the movie. Also the movie will provide food for thought for those exhilarated by the action in usual war movies or war-games enthusiasts, hopefully awakening some minds of a generation which luckily escaped the terror of being drafted.
From the very beginning to the very end. This is one War Drama worth seeing if you are in for the constant cussing (at times beyond reason) and the horrors of what boot camp are.
The dynamics of how the actors interacted was quite amazing at times, and sometimes humorous. How Bozz (Colin Farrel) deals with Paxton (Matthew Davis) throughout the storyline, from camp to Tigerland, and even in the end helping him.
The innovative free-hand filming did add a certain taste or flavor to the film. Constant moving, constant action, and just constant confusion. At times, it was a help. Others, not so much.
Throughout the film, it was increasingly realistic. Some points in the film (the sex scenes in particular) seemed to be just a tad too realistic even though they added an effect to the movie that wouldn't have been there without them. it was a very gritty movie, through and through.
In my opinion, this is one of Colin Farrel's better movies (if not his top performance). The acting for every character was superb. 9/10 -sysnuk3r
It's more a Universal Soldier movie, as "Fortunate Son" is not on the soundtrack, or virtually any other period music. It is comparable to the fine, underrated "Full Metal Jacket" as it's more about basic training than Vietnam. It certainly won't be a recruiting film for Today's Army that is trying to use participatory Sigma Quality Management Circles to retain better educated soldiers.
Colin Farrell is mesmerizing as the Rebel With A Cause--to clear the Army of misfits, sadists and undesirables, including himself. There's a neat, original scene when he gets a tough barking sergeant to reveal his first name.
In general, young hard-bodies are feasts for the eyes, even if it's hard to tell crew-cutted objects apart.
The cinematography looks effectively TV newsreelish, especially as it's really a memory play about our youth looming large and mythic over the rest of our lives.
(originally written 10/7/2000)