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?
I haven’t even heard of this one. Your review has me curious though. I can’t imagine back then a disgruntled and disobedient private would be tolerated. I don’t think it fly in today’s basic training.
I thought he was extremely cheeky. He got punished for it but not the way I think he would in real life. And Farrell is just an actor who comes across as cocky no matter what he plays. And very modern. It’s not a bad movie and the first time around I was quite acptivated but it’s not necessarily one to rewatch. I had too or I wouldn’t have been able to review it. the first time was at least five years ago. Mind you, I read a review saying it was better and more realistic than the black and white painting of Platoon.
I haven’t seen it in years, so I will watch it soon and comment on it. As I recall, you are accurate on it being too modern. I did not find the characterizations to be realistic. I think it is overrated, but may think differently after a new viewing.
I actually thought I remembered you saying you thought it was overrated. I didn’t agree at the time – mostly because I think it isn’t highly rated in any case but after re-watching it shows its flaws. It’s quite story driven and often when you watch a movie like that for the first time, you’re immeresed in it and overlook the flaws. If my theory is correct you should even think it’s worse the second time around.
Is it on your list? That would surprise me.
By overrated I mean that it has a reputation as a forgotten gem. It is most definitely not on the Greatest 100 list.
There are so many real duds on that list…(Just watched one last night…not telling you what yet) But good to know that for once they didn’t make a mistake.
I haven’t seen this one. Good point about Farrell being cheeky/cocky no matter what he does. Have you seen London Boulevard yet?
No I haven’t seen it. I’ve seen a few of his movies and he isn’t bad, depending on the subject but he is the kind of actor who gives away the year he was born, he can’t play a historical figure, I think. And this cheeky/cocky can be very annoying.
This movie had a very realistic tone. I was in the marines 04 to 06. And during our training we got speeches that were basically the same as the ones the combat instructors in the movie give. It gives me chills when i hear their speeches. I wasnt able to watch any war movies since I got out up until a few months ago, and this one really captures some of the true feelings.
Thanks for your comment, James. Very interesting. I thought it felt accurate.
It must be chilling to hear the same speeches.