Classic Review – Tigerland (2000) ****1/2

Title – Tigerland (2000)

Director – Joel Schumacher (Falling Down)

Cast – Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Clifton Collins Jr, Shea Whigham, Nick Searcy

Plot – A ragtag collection of army recruits that includes the troublemaking Roland Bozz (Farrell) and the thoughtful Jim Paxton (Davis) must fight their way through an intense army training camp known as Tigerland before they are shipped out to Vietnam at the tail end of the war in the 1970’s.

“Hey let’s not become friends, Jim. You could be dead tomorrow and I’d miss you too much”

Review by Eddie on 25/07/2018

A forgotten film and a war film with no actual war in it, Michael Schumacher’s criminally underrated and vastly underseen gem is one of the eclectic filmmaker’s best feature films and the film that launched its then relatively unknown star Colin Farrell into the Hollywood scene.

Released to solid reviews but a paltry box office run in 2000, Tigerland is a fictionalised account of the Louisiana based army training camp of the same name that operated in the 1960’s/early 70’s to get American soldiers ready to not only make it in the US Army but to survive the harsh, unrelenting and life and death surroundings of the increasingly hated Vietnam war.

Focussing its attention on a small core of raggedy wannabe soldiers that includes Farrell’s disruptive and calculating Roland Bozz, Matthew Davis’s thoughtful Jim Paxton, Clifton Collins Jr’s on edge Pvt. Miter and Shea Whigham’s unhinged Pvt. Wilson, Schumacher’s film doesn’t feel dissimilar to one long extended take on the beginnings of Full Metal Jacket but it carves out its own unique slice of war pie and becomes a totally unique and quietly moving study on the Vietnam war and those that inhabited it.

It’s a brave move by Schumacher to eschew going to the muddy battlegrounds of Vietnam but it pays dividends for Tigerland’s fortunes.

Filmed in a grainy, documentary like style with 16mm cameras, Tigerland feels like a genuine product of the era and there’s very little cinematic flair to the film which is unusual for Schumacher who has found his greatest successes with over the top productions and big budget events. With a realistic feel, Tigerland’s power to portray war away from the actual gunfights of Vietnam is impressive as these man all begin to understand themselves and come to realise what they really want, whether it’s to fight or flee.

Farrell’s character of Roland Bozz is also one of the more memorable creations in the war genre of cinema. A man who could clearly be the type of one-eyed American pride soldier the Army is seeking but instead becomes a constant nuisance, refusing to give in to a war he doesn’t believe in and a cause he can’t get behind, it’s a transfixing performance by Farrell and Bozz is a character that will continue to surprise for the entirety of the running time.

Overall Tigerland features a hugely impressive ensemble of actors and will likely remain one of Schumacher’s most impressive feats as a director of actors and a restrained yet powerful piece of the filmmakers varying catalogue of feature films.

Final Say –

A war film with a truly identifiable difference, Tigerland is easily one of Schumacher’s best films and actor Colin Farrell’s finest moment in front of camera, a turn he slowly seems to be inching towards once more with his recent works. Tigerland is a quintessential piece of cinematic history when it comes to both Vietnam examinations and the psychology of war.

4 ½ peeled potatoes out of 5

8 responses to “Classic Review – Tigerland (2000) ****1/2

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