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TIGERLAND

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Shea Wingham, Clifton Collins Jr., Thomas Guiry, Cole Hauser
Director: Joel Schumacher
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: April 17, 2001

Film ***1/2

ďYouíre not gonna kill me, sergeant! I donít know what youíre gonna do to me but you are not gonna kill me!Ē

Tigerland is a powerful and quite original look at not simply the era of the Vietnam War, but at the cutthroat world of intense basic training. This era, of course, was quite a complicated time for the entire country, but for the men of A-Company, Second Platoon, surviving basic training will soon become a war in its own. Because of the escalating casualty rate in Vietnam, most of these soldiers are fearing for their lives even once arriving at the camp. What is very certain that during this training course, each soldier will discover something about himself.

The year is 1971, and the training base is at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The training course will last for eight weeks, upon which the men will be shipped of to the outpost called Tigerland, known in the army as the second worst place on Earth. During this time, we get to know many of the soldiers, including the filmís hero, Bozz (Colin Farrell), the one rebel of the bunch who refuses to accept, or play by, the armyís rules. He even encourages fellow soldiers to sneak off at night to drink, get high, and meet up with female prostitutes. His recklessness has gotten him into trouble many a time while in the service, but he still refuses to surrender his freedom to any superior officer.

Bozz soon becomes a role model for others in the platoon, most notably Private Paxton (Matthew Davis), whoís in the army solely to influence his love for writing. Bozz evens generates emotional confessions, as in the case of Miter, played by Clifton Collins, Jr., Catherine Zeta-Jonesí assassin for hire in Traffic. In one heart-wrenching scene, Miter confesses that he enlisted to prove himself as a man, after a lifetime of being tormented and heckled back home. Bozz advises him that he should see a military shrink to help him adjust, which Miter then does. Bozz also becomes an adversary to some, such as Wilson (Shea Wingham), a gung-ho soldier who doesnít find Bozz to be a positive leader for the platoon.

I really admire Tigerland for the original way it shows the relationships and camaraderie between soldiers and their superiors. Even in once scene, Bozz is able to disobey an order from a sergeant, leave the training site with the sergeant pursuing him, and have a cigarette and engage in a personal conversation with his superior, who agrees only because even he is confused by why Bozz does what he does.

The movie is directed by Joel Schumacher, who has wisely departed from the big budget movie market to make more intriguing and striking films, and Tigerland is definitely such a film. Schumacher brought a unique approach to the making of this film. It was shot in just 28 days, and most of the footage was shot by way of the hand held camera, giving Tigerland a remarkable, documentary look to it, which perfectly illustrates Schumacherís gift as a filmmaker. His decision to cast a group of fresh actors was a very wise one, particularly in the casting of Irish actor Colin Farrell, who was able to speak in a convincing Texan accent, with no dialogue coach. Farrell is simply stunning in a true star making performance as the rebellious Bozz, one of the more fascinating characterizations of recent memory.

The combinations of Joel Schumacherís unique visual approach to the movie, along with the terrific cast of newcomers make Tigerland a rare kind of achievement.

Video ****

Fox succeeds in yet another stunning transfer to a movie, where in this case, the look is very important. Shot in documentary-like style, the picture is mostly of a high contrast nature, which was intended for the movie. Enhanced for widescreen TVs, the video job is much in the same league as the one for Three Kings, which was also shot in a unique format. Itís amazing to see that Fox, and other numerous DVD studios are able to pull off stunning transfers for movies shot in this kind of format. A terrific looking disc!

Audio ***

For a war movie, there isnít a whole lot of action or shooting, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 serves the movie very well anyway. The film is mostly made up of dialogue, until the last half of the movie, where the soldiers engage in a simulated combat in Tigerland, which includes numerous gun shots, which boasts quite an impact.

Features ***

Some nice extras here, including a full length commentary by Joel Schumacher, a four-part look into Colin Farrellís casting session, a behind the scenes featurette, and trailer and TV spots for the movie.

Summary:

Tigerland is wonderfully realized and personal look at soldiers close to the brink of destruction in hell. A triumph for Mr. Schumacher, who has proven with this film that he a very serious filmmaker.