Tigerland [2000]

Shot in the rough, 16-millimeter style of a low-budget documentary, Tigerland marked director Joel Schumacher's welcomed return to simplicity after a slew of bloated blockbusters like Batman & Robin. In revitalizing Schumacher's directorial talent, Tigerland--partially inspired by the Danish Dogme 95 movement of no-frills filmmaking--suggested that one solution to Hollywood's moribund "product" was to abandon excess, focus on essentials, and assemble a fine cast of unknown actors to make it all worthwhile. To that end, Tigerland also marked the deserving arrival of Irish actor Colin Farrell as Hollywood's hottest new discovery. Its story never leaves U.S. soil, so Tigerland differs from such in-country Vietnam films as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. Instead, it's about the anxieties and moral dilemmas that arise from the anticipation of death and killing. These roiling emotions are focused on the character of Private Bozz (Farrell), whose insubordination betrays a singular knack for leadership during infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in 1971. Part R.P. McMurphy and part Cool Hand Luke, Bozz is a defiant maverick, barely tolerated by his superiors, challenged or revered by his fellow grunts, and ultimately honed into a soldier of remarkable promise. An intense final week in the live-ammo training ground nicknamed "Tigerland" galvanizes the platoon and Bozz's place in it, and although the film (partially based on cowriter Ross Klavan's own experience) lacks the emotional impact of Platoon, it deals quite potently with the internal conflicts that must be waged before external warfare can be endured. --Jeff Shannon

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