Joel Schumacher took such a critical pounding with Batman & Robin that it was unlikely the director would ever be taken seriously in Hollywood again. Schumacher had earned a cult reputation after turning in memorable hits such as The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Falling Down and two Grisham adaptations The Client and A Time To Kill. Even his first caped crusader effort, Batman Forever, was an enjoyably bright contrast to the dark, noir Burton efforts, but Batman & Robin was a flashy, incomprehensible mess. Ever since, Schumacher has aimed to subvert all critical expectations and has made films focusing on more obscure material. His 8mm was a decent mainstream thriller that was too much a blatant attempt to be considered alongside Se7en, and his Flawless was an average character study that sparked little interest. Now, Tigerland seems like it's another calculated effort from Schumacher, as if he is attempting to add to a subject that could easily have been closed - Vietnam.
Tigerland is the story of Roland Bozz (played with an unconvincing American accent by Colin Farrell), a recruit who is drafted to serve in Vietnam in 1971. Bozz's only friend seems to be Jim Paxton (Matthew Davis), a patriot who seems intent on making notes on his experiences in order to base novels on them later in his life. Bozz has a severe attitude problem, and his rebellion against authority is almost automatically triggered by any direct order he has given. Consistently punished and outcast, Bozz seems to hold no care concerning the system he is caught up amongst, and is hell-bent on helping any soldier who is determined to escape the war. However, when the troops are sent to Tigerland, the last stop training ground before Vietnam, Bozz's true soldier potential is utilised when the training ground comes to represent the war itself.
Tigerland has nothing new to say, and doesn't know how to say it anyway. If its intention is to depict how unsuitable the methods of training soldiers are in terms of preparing them for Vietnam, then it would have been better to instruct its viewers to watch Full Metal Jacket instead. Also, the film needs to take note of the fact that any protagonist who is in essence a rebel must have complete trust from the audience, such as Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo's Nest or James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Roland Bozz however, comes across as totally obnoxious and severely frustrating, and upon the film's conclusion you never sense that you have learnt anything new about the man. Worse so, whilst you never care about Bozz you tend to care about his poor fellow soldiers who seem to be punished for the crimes of his rebellion. Casting pretty-boy Irishman Colin Farrell as Bozz doesn't help matters, as Farrell mumbles most of his dialogue and has screen absence rather than screen presence.
Matthew Davis is acceptable as Bozz's friend Paxton, although his character's strong admiration for Bozz never seems justified or even realistic. The best performance in the film comes from Afemo Omilami, who gives Sergeant Ezra Landers a strong, disciplined persona but still an approachable and likeable aura, clearly going against most of the stereotypical drill sergeants who are depicted in films. Ironically, Omilami also played a drill sergeant in Forrest Gump. In contrast to Omilami's fine performance, the remainder of the sergeants portrayed in the film are nothing more than typical thuggish grunts.
Tigerland is a film that in hindsight feels completely pointless. Schumacher directs with a semi-documentary style as if heightening the realism, and yet he never seems sure which parts of the story are actually worth telling. In his determination to depict serious realism, Schumacher has left the boringness of the story wide open. Even his use of stark, grainy film stock and hand-held photography seems overly calculated, as if Schumacher is trying to show to the world that he can create as atmospheric a war setting as Spielberg can.
However, the cinematography by Matthew Libatique (who produced fine work in Requiem For A Dream is the most impressive element of Tigerland, since it provides the film with a distinctive visual edginess that perfectly suits the tone of the film. In fact, the final Tigerland sequences are some of the most beautifully shot sequences over the last few years, and it's a pity Schumacher is not expert enough to fully utilise them.
Any war film that contains a group of soldiers learning to bond with one another is always going to possess a die-hard following, but Tigerland seems to ultimately have nothing going for it. It's slick, visually impressive and internally vacuous, and is nothing more than a night's rental pleasure at best.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1, the transfer is very good indeed, in that it manages to cope wonderfully with the 16mm grainy imagery without revealing any trace of digital artefacts. Images are sharp and full of clarity, and the distinctive 1971 setting of the film is splendidly realised with Matthew Libatique's cinematography.
Presented in Dolby 5.1, the sound mix is very rich in terms of sound effects and ambient noises, although dialogue is occasionally muffled and hard to detect. This is apparently because Schumacher intends a documentary feel for the proceedings, which ensures that the mix mostly feels like a two channel stereo one.
Menu: A good, tense animated menu that features clips from the film and also incorporates portions of the score.
Packaging: Presented in a transparent amaray casing with usual Fox template. The cover artwork is almost identical to the Region 1 version and chapter listings are printed on the reverse of the inlay card and are visible through the transparent casing.
Audio Commentary By Joel Schumacher: This screen-specific audio commentary is actually very interesting even if Schumacher has a very dry voice. He's complementary of his actors and crew and very open about the tight shooting schedule (four weeks) and the low budget the film possessed. There are times when the commentary suffers from long pauses and from Schumacher over-promoting his film, but on the whole this is a nice companion piece for any fan of the film.
Casting Session With Colin Farrell: Split up into four parts that last for a minute of two each, this is a collection of very low quality video footage containing Colin Farrell's screen-tests. They aren't very interesting to watch, and will leave you unconvinced as to how Farrell actually acquired the role of Roland Bozz.
Trailer & TV Spots: A full-length trailer and two TV spots are presented, each in fullscreen.
Featurette: A brief, four minute featurette that mixes the trailer with short interviews with the cast and crew, and will give the audience a chance to hear Colin Farrell's strong Irish accent.
An ordinary Vietnam training movie with nothing new to say is given good picture and sound treatment and mediocre extras if you discount Joel Schumacher's interesting commentary. Tigerland will be liked by some but will spark little amongst the uninterested, and this DVD release is strictly for the fans.
Last updated: 16/05/2018 09:15:08