War is such a fascinating subject that by now we’ve seen it from a thousand different angles. And yet Tigerland manages to offer a new one. Granted, it feels like a blend of Full Metal Jacket and Hair, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. War is the worst thing in the world and I still don’t get why in the 21st century we’re still engaging in it. It should be a thing of the past now but I guess we’re not that lucky. Shot on a hand-held camera and with a gritty vibe to it, Tigerland follows a group of recruits who are about to go to Vietnam. They will spend the last few weeks at the infamous Fort Polk under grueling conditions.
Now, Fort Polk is a real place where a lot of soldiers received their basic training before shipping out to Vietnam. This Louisiana installation with thick vegetation, high humidity, and the heat was a perfect place to simulate the conditions these soldiers were about to face. The movie did a great job creating this uneasy atmosphere full of dread despite the somewhat formulaic characters and story. What saved the day were the actors. Colin Farrell was excellent along with Shea Whigham. And since Tigerland is a movie worth watching, of course, it also stars Clifton Collins Jr.
And while technically this is a war movie, it’s more similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as it explores non-conformity and military efforts to mold these young men into killing machines. Some of them love this prospect but others dread it and outright refuse it. However, they’re in such a situation were refusing an order would be either jail or death if you’re on the battlefield. The fucking war machine.
Roland Bozz is a young man who despises authority and just wants to live his life by his own rules. Drafted and about to go to Vietnam, he decides to try to bring some sense into this straightforward military equation. Bozz starts realizing that this whole process is unfair, cruel, and, at times, simply insane. So, he does his best to help his fellow soldiers to get through this…
Tigerland came out in the early aughts along with a couple of other, similar movies. The one I keep confusing it with is Basic starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson. So, if you’re looking for something similar but more action-oriented, I recommend you check it out. We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson and Greg Kinnear is also a good choice. Going back to this one, I think that it needed a bit more focus to reach its full potential.
We keep going back and forth between the conditions at the camp, antiwar sentiment, and the personal struggles of the recruits. Don’t get me wrong, they’re delicately balanced it’s just I feel there was a lot more to flesh out here.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writers: Ross Klavan, Michael McGruther
Cast: Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Clifton Collins Jr., Russell Richardson, Shea Whigham, Michael Shannon
Fun Facts: The book that private Bozz keeps reading is Dalton Trumbo’s famous anti-war novel “Johnny Got His Gun”. Metallica recorded a song One as a tribute to this book.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0170691/