One Flew Over Tigerland
"Tigerland" is one of those movies which if you have never watched but read the DVD blurb or synopsis you would most like say is a war movie. And it is understandable why you would think so because we are taken back to 1971 and a group of American soldiers going through weeks of training before being sent to Vietnam. Even when you start to watch it you may think yes this is a typical war training movie with tough drill sergeants, angry soldiers and those who are border line psychotic. But the truth of the matter is that "Tigerland" is more similar to "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" than say "Platoon" because it is about Pvt. Roland Bozz who knows how to play the system going against orders and helping those who want out to get out. And it makes it a very different sort of movie especially with almost a documentary sense of styling which paints a very different picture.
The year is 1971 and a group of recruits go through infantry training ready to ship out to Vietnam once they have spent a week in Tigerland the closest the army can offer to the war whilst in training. Pvt. Jim Paxton (Matthew Davis) is an enlisted soldier with plans to write a book all about his adventure through training and war and he meets and befriends Pvt. Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell - Crazy Heart) whose disregard for authority and the military way of life gets him in trouble. But Bozz is a man who knows the military system so well that he helps a couple of soldiers to leave, and whilst his superiors dislike him for his attitude know that the men look up to him as a leader. Well that is everyone other than Pvt. Wilson (Shea Whigham) who hates him, hates him with a deadly passion.
So on first look "Tigerland" does appear to be a war movie, in fact a war training movie where we have soldiers going through training, tough abusive drill sergeants screaming in their ears and so on. And it does serve up everything you would expect from one of these sorts of movies, there is the relentless training, the physically violent Drill Sergeant who enjoys physically beating the crap out of soldiers as well as those soldiers who can't cope with the intensity. You also have those who are so gung ho that they border on the psychotic, harbouring racist opinions and a willingness to think with their fists first.
But then at the forefront of all this is Pvt. Roland Bozz a young man who doesn't want to be in the army despite having the ability to be a good soldier. Maybe he doesn't like being bossed about, maybe he doesn't like fighting someone else's war what ever reason Bozz does not want to be there. But then he gets some sort of satisfaction from being a thorn in the side of his superiors as he knows the system. He knows it so well that he helps a couple of young soldiers leave honourably and knows how far to push those in command. Basically Bozz is a very similar character to R.P. McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" a man who is popular amongst others, who enjoys winding superiors up and there to defend those who need his help.
So basically we have a war movie set up about someone who has authority issues but we also have a movie which is different stylistically. Well what I mean by that is that there is almost a documentary sense to things as the camera follows the action around and at times almost feeling a bit fly on the wall. It does means that at times "Tigerland" is a bit slow going but then you get sudden bursts of drama which abruptly wake up what is almost a sleeping beast. When issues between Bozz and Pvt. Wilson hit fever pitch the volatility is tremendous yet it is followed by a subdued moment only to then erupt into life again.
It's probably no surprise when I say there are a lot of stereotypical characters and performances in "Tigerland" which are good but nothing you haven't seen before. These include James MacDonald as the physically abusive Staff Sgt. Thomas, Clifton Collins Jr. as the emotionally week Pvt. Miter and Shea Whigham as the psychotic Pvt. Wilson. But the reality of all this is, is that "Tigerland" is all about Colin Farrell as Pvt. Roland Bozz and his confidence to go up against authority and Farrell delivers it every time. Be it when he doesn't shy away from winding up Sgt. Thomas to the way he helps out Miter and Cantwell when it is obvious they haven't got what it takes to survive.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Tigerland" does look like a typical war movie with recruits going through training but it is more than that. This is a movie all about one man and his issues with authority and a way of life he disagrees with.