By Christopher Null
As it turns out, war can be hell even if you never leave home.
Joel Schumacher, director of some of the worst films in a generation (8MM, Batman & Robin, Batman Forever), redeems himself with his first really good flick since Falling Down in 1993. A tale of army recruits in their final days of training before heading to Vietnam in 1971, Tigerland is an original and modestly powerful anti-war film that never even goes "in country."
The film revolves around a recruit named Bozz (Colin Farrell, Croupier) who is trying everything in his power to get out before he's shipped out. He refuses to participate in basic training, talks back to his superiors, and undermines his fellow recruits' gung ho attitudes with his sly, pacifist talk. Notably, Bozz's closest friend Paxton (Matthew Davis, Urban Legends: Final Cut) is looking forward to "the experience" of serving in 'Nam, unafraid and ready for duty, and while Paxton's resolve starts to crumble, Bozz finds his inexplicably coming back around.
Eschewing the theatrics of his Batman sagas, Schumacher relies on an understated documentary style, largely using handheld cameras and seemingly improvised scenarios. To some extent, this works well, putting the viewer in the action, headed to Tigerland (the very last training stop before Vietnam) on the bus along with the platoon. But on another level, the whole film feels a little cheap, like Schumacher went into the woods behind his house with a machete and a Handicam and figured he could make a movie right there as a weekend project. As a result, the picture doesn't look or feel overwhelmingly authentic, and the connection with the viewer is broken. (In the end, it's apparent the film has been shot the way it was simply for budget considerations, which was reportedly less than $10 million.)
Farrell in particular is a standout among the virtually all-male cast, though he doesn't shine bright enough to outdo some of 2000's virtuoso performances like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. The ensemble as a whole is smashing, and the story as written by Ross Klavan and Michael McGruther is a standout among this year's lackluster scripts. Too bad the film couldn't have kept the energy level on an even keel throughout the production, but hey, wars -- and movies -- are hell.
Hold that tiger.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Thursday 24th May 2001
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Regency Enterprises, Haft Entertainment, 20th Century Fox
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 11
Cast & Crew
Also starring: Clifton Collins Jr., Russell Richardson, Nick Searcy, Afemo Omilami, Keith Ewell, Matt Gerald, Stephen Fulton, Tyler Cravens, Michael Edmiston, Arian Waring Ash, Haven Gaston, Michael Shannon, Roger Floyd, Ronnie Schafer, Frances Taylor, Matt White, Christy McKee, Daniel Martin, Marc Macaulay, Cole Hauser, Beau Flynn, Steven Haft, Ted Kurdyla, Ross Klavan, Michael McGruther