In 1971 the Vietnam War was coming to a close and it was a common notion that the war had already been lost. But in Fort Polk, Louisiana all personal opinions were left at the door. This was the United States’ toughest infantry training base. Not only did you have to go through the hardcore training camp, but you also had to survive Tigerland before you were shipped overseas to enter the combat.
Tigerland was a section of the base filled with dense foliage and marshland similar to what was found in Vietnam, and the men were completely immersed in a warlike simulation. They were required to carry out missions, search for enemy traps, eat what they could carry, and do everything on minimal amounts of sleep.
Roland Bozz (Farrell) has just been released from the stockade for his insubordinate behavior. If he is sent back again, he could end up being court martialed and sent to Leavenworth. Sent back into training with the latest group of recruits, he finds himself making friends with Jim Paxton (Matthew Davis), a wannabe writer who enlisted for the experience and something to write about.
Bozz thinks anyone who freely enlists is crazy as he is doing everything possible to get out of the army. He knows that once he is sent to Vietnam he’s going to die over there. In order to prevent his inevitable deployment, Bozz is going to try anything and everything to get himself out of the army.
He becomes well versed in all of the army codes and regulations. He is so good at seeking out loopholes that he manages to get several of his squad members out, but unfortunately nothing applies to his own situation. So the only option he has is to be a troublemaker and all around incompetent soldier.
But his superiors have other plans for him. They’re going to push him through no matter what. And along the way Bozz begins to care for his fellow squad members and ultimately gets bridled with the title of squad commander.
Tigerland comes across as just an average film. The main reason being that everything about this film is recycled. It feels like this is just another Vietnam War movie with the same basic ideas. War is bad. The soldiers don’t want to fight. They get abused by their drill instructors. Some of them snap. There’s one guy who takes crazy to the next level and wants to kill someone in his squad. The lead character is a smartass who somehow manages to get away with being a smart ass in this super intense no-nonsense training camp. Granted this movie is eleven years old, but even then it wasn’t doing anything new or groundbreaking.
The disc contains a director commentary, early casting video with Colin Farrell, the film’s trailer, a TV spot, and a few other features.
- ”The Real Tigerland” – This was the most interesting feature as several former Vietnam vets that went through Fort Polk spoke about their experience. One of them was also an instructor who had a different perspective on the training than that of the enlisted men. This is one of the few times where a feature actually helps the film and gives it a little more respectability after the fact.
- ”Joel Schumacher: Journey to Tigerland” – The acclaimed director discusses his reasons for doing the film, how they went about it, and the hiring of a no-named actor in the lead role. It’s an interesting look into Hollywood casting and a little disappointing to see that Farrell got the role because he was persistent and the ladies in the office thought he was hot.
- ”Ross Klavan: Ode to Tigerland” – The writer of the screenplay discusses that the inspiration for the characters came from his own experiences in the Army and what he went through to get his story turned into a movie.
The Blu-ray video quality isn’t really a factor for this film as the director filmed using a lot of hand-held cameras and intentionally went for a grainy look to give it a more authentic feel. The audio, which is in Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, is really impressive during the battle scenes where explosions and gunfire can be heard coming from every direction. However, the mix is sometimes a little shaky when too many things are going on all at once and dialogue can be easily missed.
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