Projections - Movie Reviews

Tigerland Tigerland

It's hard to remember the last film on Vietnam, let alone one that was not set in Southeast Asia.  Arguably Joel Schumacher's boldest and raw big screen venture to date, Tigerland shifts back to America's backyard for Vietnam boot camp on a small budget for a major studio release.  Shot on a Florida army base, Schumacher gets the most out of his budding writers and an unknown cast.

The director of the last two Batman forays uses Louisiana's Fort Polk in 1971 with the Vietnam War dividing a nation as the second platoon of A-Company is nearing the end of infantry training.  Tigerland is the trackless wilderness where all the elements of war are designated by the Army, the second platoon's final stop before battling the enemy for real on foreign soil.

Success with young adult actors is a plus for Schumacher as it was in films like Flatliners with Julia Roberts, The Lost Boys with Kiefer Sutherland, even Rob Lowe in the brat pack hit St. Elmo's Fire.  He has a narrator in Private Jim Paxton (Matt Davis) who aims to be like Hemingway - inspired romantically by war.  Clifton Collins Jr.'s Miter looks to become a man, while Cantwell (Thomas Guiry) is sure what will eventually happen to him.  Wilson (Shea Whigham) is a trainee obsessed with being in the actual peril of front lines.

Recalling the cynicism of Sean Penn in The Thin Red Line is Colin Farrell's Roland Bozz, but Farrell goes about it with insubordination and defiance which reflects some of the rage of a veteran like Penn in the most affecting, galvanizing turn in Tigerland.

Bozz immediately fires up the A-Company and irks its commanding officers who see his attitudes reflected the anti-war conscience permeating into the platoon.  The indiscriminate protester, out of the base stockade, uses the imperfect Army system to help Cantwell and lets anyone know his opinion.

The higher ups still have faith in the rebellious Bozz as a leader and know he'll come around in time.  Paxton, who goes after prostitutes with his anguished buddy, starts to realize what effect disobedience can have and Wilson goes more unstable after witnessing Bozz's unrelenting resistance.

Here the action is often riveting with hand held digital cameras giving the deep backwoods of Louisiana the look and fright of Vietnam.  While it falls short of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Tigerland rarely misses the mark in this incisive look at the last stop of war games.


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