War (US); 2000;
Rated R; 100 Minutes
Colin Farrell: Bozz
Matthew Davis: Paxton
Clifton Collins Jr.: Miter
Tom Guiry: Cantwell
Shea Whigham: Wilson
Russell Richardson: Johnson
Produced by Beau Flynn, Steven Haft, Ted Kurdyla,
Arnon Milchan and Eli Richbourg; Directed by Joel
Schumacher; Screenwritten by Ross Klavan and Michael
by DAVID KEYES
war depicted in Joel Schumacher's "Tigerland" is fought
not on the battlefields, but on the turf of a Louisiana-based
instruction camp between several soldiers-in-training, whose
fears of a seemingly ill-fated future fill them with anxiety
strong enough to warrant sudden outbursts. Just the mere
mention of Vietnam sends chills down their spines; perhaps
the only thing preventing them from collapsing on the spot
is the U.S. army's long-established incentive to fight for
your country no matter how severe the situation is. In ways,
this may be a precise reflection of the atmosphere that
surrounded all the real American soldiers on their way to
Vietnam in the 1960s. The only question that remains: was
it all necessary?
Bozz, a man with reservations about the entire process,
doesn't seem to think so. As he listens and watches the
command of nearby officers, whose prime instruction revolves
around methods of torturing information out of the enemy,
he contemplates with utter confusion, "why would I want
to do that to another human being?" It's bad enough that
men like him were never even asked to be associated with
this kind of large-scale warfare; was it also required that
they operate like killing machines rather than the respectable
human beings they were raised to be?
like these are ideal in all antiwar sentiments, but few
of them are sprouted without the benefit of some on-screen
documentation of the events themselves. This is what makes
"Tigerland" such an irresistible and intriguing experience:
rather than approaching the material under the influence
of dense bloodshed and violence, it converges on the human
aspect of the situation, using the presence of one benevolent
individual as the driving influence behind all the necessary
antiwar messages to be delivered to the audience. Confused?
Then try imagining "The Thin Red Line," only with interesting
characters and a story that actually cares about the situation
it is in.
incarnation of Bozz is played by Colin Farrell, who gives
one of the year's best male performances here. His rebellious
ideas and actions go immediately noticed among the ranks
of soldiers, one of whom is Jim Paxton (Matthew Davis),
a man who enlisted in the army of his own free will and
quickly becomes one of Bozz's closest friends. Others, however,
are not too impressed by his mutinous shenanigans, particularly
the officers of the camp (who shamelessly throw him around
like a puppet) and a soldier named Wilson (Shea Whigham),
who provokes the man at every opportunity to inflame the
tension of the idea of going to war.
as the movie's characters reflect the apparent tone of real
soldiers during the Vietnam War, so does the look of the
film itself. Men under these pressures are likely to look
at the world from muddy, discolored points of view, and
the cinematography solidly captures a look that is monotonous
and rather depressing, but realistic and gritty at the core.
All of it is shot with handheld cameras, much like the battle
sequences in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," but
maybe that isn't so surprising. After all, it can be said
that the documentary style of filmmaking adds a vivid intensity
to a particular situation, especially when the movie itself
deals with events that are reflective of realism but spiced
up to Hollywood standards, like this one is.
can be argued, however, that the picture is just too short
to fully enact a sense of pure realism: the investigation
of the characters and their motivations is immediately ceased
before any genuine climax is realized. The film lacks the
necessary final act; events sort of just unfold one after
another and then, without warning, lead to a brief closing
monologue and the ending credits. Where's the sense of closure?
Where is our much-deserved payoff? It looks as if director
Joel Schumacher just threw together an ending rather hurriedly,
simply because he was meeting a deadline.
undermines "Tigerland" to an extent, but not by much. That's
because the movie is established so well in so many other
aspects, from the characters to the visuals and, ultimately,
to the clarity of the situation. So many antiwar movies
in the past have missed the mark of greatness because they
tend to over-sensationalize their war sequences. Since there
is no abundant demand for those here, the movie is lucid
and smooth, achieving the goal of an antiwar message without
the fear of substantial battle scenes clouding its judgment.
2001, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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