Tigerland (2000)

Tigerland is one of those movies on which people disagree. One can’t really say it is a question of love it or hate it but a question of appreciating or not appreciating it. I liked it far better the first time I watched it. This time around I noticed far more of its flaws but it’s still decent.

It’s 1971 and a group of recruits is sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, to undergo combat training. The place is called “Tigerland” and is as close to the real Vietnam as can be. One of the recruits is Private Bozz (Colin Farrell). Private Bozz is one of the most insubordinate privates I’ve ever seen in any war movie. He doesn’t only disobey, he makes fun of his superiors and provokes them constantly. He breaks every rule, can’t take anything seriously and is unwilling to participate in anything that will lead him to kill civilians or torture Vietnamese soldiers. The other recruits are torn between hatred and admiration. 1971 is late in the war and nobody, not even some of the superiors, sees any sense in the war anymore. Despite being arrogant and cocky, Bozz has a good heart and helps more than one soldier to be sent back home. He tells his only friend, Private Paxton, that he is going to try to escape to Mexico.

Halfway into the movie his dispute with another Private, Wilson, that started early in the film, escalates and when the training intensifies, he isn’t only hit and abused by one of the aggressive Sargeants but he must fear for his life as Wilson has sworn to kill him in action. The training is as close to war as training can get and an “accident” could happen any time.

The whole beginning of the movie is reminiscent of the Boot Camp part in Full Metal Jacket – including the abusive training instructor – while the second half is rather like a thriller. I thought that this worked well and when I watched it for the first time I found it quite suspenseful. What didn’t work for me is Bozz’s tone and attitude. I can’t help feeling that it’s not appropriate. I found the movie felt too modern, had more of an Iraq movie feel. I’m not sure if anyone else has felt the same but I really found the movie felt too modern for its theme. This is a movie that looks back and not one that tries to convey a feeling for how it was. Maybe I’m wrong but that’s how I felt about it.

Apart from that it illustrates very well how disillusioned the soldiers and recruits were and how pointless the war really was.

I would really like to know what others thought of this. Did you like it? Did it work for you? Isn’t Private Bozz overdrawn?

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