Urban Cinefile
"One lady threw herself at me and hugged me and kissed me and called out, 'Francis! Francis!…She was pissed, but it helped my confidence no end!"  -Sir Derek Jacobi on his role as Francis Bacon in Love is The Devil
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday July 12, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In 1971, a group of military recruits are sent on advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana: Tigerland - their last stop before Vietnam. Standing out among the recruits is Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell), whose open opposition to the war and defiance of military procedure begins to influence the ranks. Bozz’s rebellious nature will have a dramatic effect on his fellow recruits Paxton (Matthew Davis), Miter (Clifton Collins Jr.), Cantwell (Tom Guiry) and the disturbed Wilson (Shea Whigham).

We never visit Vietnam in Tigerland but we feel like we have. America’s self-examination over the war it couldn’t win continues with this emotionally charged drama that vividly explains why Vietnam was lost even before the troops arrived. Joel Schumacher’s best film since Falling Down (1993) goes beyond being just another powerful indictment of war. It exposes the appalling psychology of military discipline and how hopelessly inadequate it is to deal with young men who simply don’t believe in what their country expects them to do. The relentless scenes of drill sergeants screaming abuse at their charges and stripping them of humanity is reminiscent of the opening scenes in Full Metal Jacket. Here it is more effective—the handheld 16mm camerawork (by Requiem For a Dream lenser Matthew Libatique) makes this much more disturbing than Kubrick’s precise 35mm mis-en-scene ever did. Casting relative unknowns also makes a big impact. There are no famous faces on which to attach any audience expectations and we're left looking at a group of kids who are the walking dead and their superiors who, to varying degrees, are struggling to maintain their own belief. In Bozz, Tigerland has a dynamic central figure about whom the mood of increasing numbers of American citizens of the times revolve. He doesn’t deliver scriptwriter’s speeches either, being content to piss off army brass and offer simple lines like "I ain’t buying it" for us to read into larger script. He’s surrounded by a great cast who excel under Schumacher’s well known capabilities with young actors (St Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys). Co-scriptwriter Ross Klavan trained at Tigerland himself and it shows. Schumacher made this for $10 million and triple that in commitment and it shows. The result is one of the most potent explorations of the military mind-set, irrespective of the war in question, that you'll ever see. See it.
Richard Kuipers

Well, yes, that’s true, Richard—but for me the film is really about character. In this case the character of Bozz. The ugly view of army mindset is less novel and less interesting [and already well explored many times] than this character, with Colin Farrell a reminder of a gutsy Mel Gibson at comparable ages. And it’s not until we cotton onto that, that the film clicks into place as a Schumacher shiner. Bozz is that fascinating kinda guy who gets up the army’s nose because he can. He’s a leader who not only hates war and the army, he hates leading. He just wants to be. There’s a complex person in Bozz, someone worth two hours of time to explore. His insubordination contains an explosive mix of bravado and moral fibre; his morality is subdued but powerful; his larrikinism is as abundant as his generosity to others. His weaknesses are bound to his strengths. And Farrell is up to the challenge of making this man a credible force who has a powerful effect on those around him. One way or ‘tother. Although I must admit, I found the film not only relentlessly harrowing, but irritatingly careless with the sound mix:the combination of atmos and heavy Southern accents often blur crucial bits of dialogue. Especially as much of it is pithy. It’s a very good film indeed, but I’d only recommend it to those who have the fortitude to withstand a week at Tigerland themselves.
Andrew L. Urban

Critics have been dumbfounded by Joel Schumacher’s flip from the big budget punch of The Client, A Time to Kill, and Batman 3 and 4 to the mid-range grit of 8MM and Flawless. I think Schumacher always had it in him. He began with St Elmo’s Fire, Flatliners, and The Lost Boys before making his one truly great film, Falling Down (a personal favourite). Still, I see their point. Tigerland is the last film you would expect Schumacher to helm. It’s shot almost Dogma style with hand-held 16mm cameras and a cast of unknowns, and it proves again that bigger isn’t better for him. He makes Tigerland a curious kind of war film—never really gripping in that war-movie sense (like Apocalypse Now) or fully engrossing in that we hang on the precarious lives of these characters (like The Great Escape or Platoon). It sits more in the territory of pre-war training pics like Basic Training, Biloxi Blues, and the great Full Metal Jacket, where drill instructors drive unwitting recruits bonkers in the effort to make them hardened military men. It’s a character film, and Bozz sits in the centre of it all, raging against the machine with his mind more than his body, like a modern day American Gandhi. That’s where Tigerland is strongest; when Bozz begins to convince his troops that war is flawed and they begin thinking their lives might be sacrificed for a dubious cause. As Bozz, new star Colin Farrell eschews all the cool old-fashioned macho of Steve McQueen or Clint Eastwood, only with sensitivity. He’s well supported by Clifton Collins Jr. as the boy who desperately wants to prove himself a man, and Shea Whigham as the born-to-kill GI who goes off the rails. Each make Tigerland an intimate, character driven film that’s as glossless as it is out of time among so many recent WWII epics (like Saving Private Ryan or Pearl Harbour). Most of all, it makes you think. Hell, being thrown into war against your will is something all young men think about. Even me.
Shannon J. Harvey

Email this article

Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Read Alistair Harkness's interview with


CAST: Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Clifton Collins Jr., Tom Guiry, Shea Whigham

DIRECTOR: Joel Schumacher

PRODUCER: Beau Flynn, Steven Haft, Arnon Milchan

SCRIPT: Michael McGruther, Ross Klavan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique

EDITOR: Mark Stevens


MUSIC: Nathan Larson

RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 18, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: March 13, 2002

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020