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Tigerland is one of those films which performed awfully at the box-office but received surprisingly good reviews from critics. Released around the same time as Saving Private Ryan, Tigerland’s action free look at the Vietnam War did not appeal to many cinema goers. Films dealing with war only normally perform well at the box office if they have lots of action. Tigerland chose to deal with the relationships of soldiers during the difficult times of war. For this reason it failed when first released. The release of the DVD enables fans of war films to have a look at what they missed in the cinema.

Tigerland centres on the character of Private Roland Bozz, played by Colin Farrell. Bozz has reluctantly joined the army during the Vietnam War and is trying his best to get kicked out before he has to make the trip to Vietnam. Desperate to annoy his sergeants enough for them to get rid of him, he sets about trying to get a bad name. This behaviour also annoys his fellow soldiers who want Bozz kicked out of the army as well. Unfortunately for Bozz, his sergeants have taken a different approach to dealing with his unacceptable behaviour. They choose to ignore it and let his colleagues deal with it.

Tigerland’s strength is its character development. During some of the confrontations between Bozz and fellow soldiers, we realise that Bozz is not as uncaring as first impressions suggest. He simply doesn’t agree with war and doesn’t see why he should fight. At first, members of his platoon don’t agree with his ideas and think he is a rebel. In fact some of them take great offence because he doesn’t show any pride in serving his country. Gradually he makes friends, in particular with Jim Paxton (Matthew Davis). Paxton and Bozz become good friends and some of Bozz’s ideas rub off on his easily influenced friend.

Several incidents occur during the movie which means that Bozz ends up leading the platoon several days before the group’s visit to Tigerland. Tigerland is based in Louisiana and is the cruel training camp that all soldiers visit before going to Vietnam. The camp is designed to give a realistic view of what life in Vietnam is going to be like. At first, Bozz’s appointment as captain of the platoon is not received very well. Several members of the platoon refuse to work under him but gradually they grow to respect their leader. Obviously some members can never accept Bozz as their commander and this makes the movie even more compelling.

As mentioned before, Tigerland contains very little action. We never see the soldiers in Vietnam and the only action scenes shown are some training exercises. For this reason any fans of action-packed war will be extremely disappointed and probably bored. What Tigerland does extremely well is to develop the characters in a way that means the audience cares about what happens to each character. At first Bozz seems like a very spoilt and ignorant person, but as the film progresses we learn that he is a lot more thoughtful than he first appeared.  Tigerland has probably over ten main characters and during the movie we get to know about their backgrounds and their thoughts on fighting in the war. The treatment of the soldiers during training is wonderfully brought to the screen. I have seen several Vietnam films, but this one is probably one of the most accurate and gruelling portrayals of what soldiers had to go through before reaching Vietnam.

With a movie that is so character driven, you need good performances from your main actors. That’s exactly what you get in Tigerland. Colin Farrall is superb as Bozz. His performance is assured and confident. His character needs to be annoying at first but then respected as the movie progresses. Farrall does this expertly and to be honest this is necessary for the film to succeed. I predict great things for this guy, and I am sure we will see more of him over the next few years. So much of the film is built around his character that to have had anyone less convincing in the lead role would have spoilt the movie. Matthew Davis also gives a strong performance as do most of the main actors.

At times Tigerland felt like a documentary. The picture quality is not great but that is intentional on the part of the director. Various different camera angles are used and the zooming in is sometimes quite amateurish!. This is all done on purpose though, to make the film look as rough as some of the surroundings the soldiers had to face. During some of the training sequences the camera manages to get right on top of the soldiers even though they are in bunkers. The film feels like it has been filmed with a heldheld camcorder, and this actually improves the impact of certain scenes.  

One thing which I think could have improved the movie was the focus on Tigerland. Only about a quarter of the movie actually takes place there. This is a little disappointing, as the camp looked like a very gruelling period for the soldiers. It would have been interesting to see how Bozz inspired his platoon during difficult conditions. This is only a minor gripe though as the length of the movie is ideal. At just over ninety minutes the film never gives the audience the opportunity to get bored.

I suppose you are wondering why the movie has an 18 certificate if there is no violence during it. The main reason for the adult rating is that there is an awful lot of swearing. Sometimes it is a little over the top but if it were to be removed from the movie some of the impact would probably be lost. The film also deals with a fairly adult theme and some of the punishment that the soldiers have to take is disturbing.

I cannot recommend Tigerland enough. I normally like action packed movies but found Tigerland to be a fresh and riveting look at Vietnam. It a realistic and emotional journey through the lives of a bunch of soldiers prior to their assignment to Vietnam, which has not been tried before. Joel Schumacher gives us an insight into how people react in difficult times. The film may not be the most exciting war movie of recent times but it is certainly one of the most powerful and emotional.

Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio this transfer is hard to judge. As mentioned above the film is roughly shot with jerky camera work. The overall picture is quite grainy at times but Joel Schumacher filmed it that way intentionally. Shot on 16mm film the content was always going to have a rough look. Colours seem quite washed out as well, but once again that is intentional. There is no sign of edge enhancement or pixelation during the movie. The print seems in good condition with no obvious damage. Overall an impressive transfer.

This disc includes a English Dolby Digital soundtrack. Before watching the movie I was quite naive to think that the audio side of this would be as aggressive as the track included with Saving Private Ryan. However, after watching the movie it was clear that Tigerland was a completely different type of movie. The soundtrack on this disc is no where near as aggressive and bold, but nevertheless it is still a mighty fine attempt. The dialog is clear and crisp. My rear speakers could have been used more often but to be honest there are very few opportunities for their use. This is mainly a front driven soundtrack which does its job well. Also included is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Subtitles are also dealt with impressively. Nearly every European language is included.  

The extras on this disc look quite substantial at first but sadly after running through what is available I was a little disappointed. First up we have a Director’s Commentary with Joel Schumacher.

Also included on the disc is a section entitled ‘Trailer and TV spots’. This section comprises of a theatrical trailer and a couple of TV spots. The trailer runs at just under two and a half minutes. It shows lots of different scenes from the movie without giving away the plot. However, the trailer is not very exciting and does little to sell the movie. This may be one of the main reasons why the movie did not perform very well at cinemas.  The TV Spots are a little more up tempo. They make the film look a little more exciting than the trailer. The second TV Spot is called ‘Compelling News’ and features comments from some movie critics.

At first glance the featurette looks like one of the major additions to the disc, but unfortunately it is nothing more then an extended trailer with a few comments from some of the actors. Joel Schumacher speaks for a little while about the character of Bozz. Colin Farrell also speaks about playing the lead role, but to be honest neither of them mentions anything worthwhile. We also get a quick glimpse of Matt Davis and a few of the other members of the cast. The featurette runs at just over four minutes and was disappointing. A lot of the clips are actually shown in the trailer and we don’t really get any glimpses of behind the scenes. Sadly an unspectular featurette.

Lastly we have casting sessions with Colin Farrell. Anyone who has seen the film will know that Colin Farrell was the star of the movie. However these casting sessions, while in theory they are a good addition, prove to be very boring. There are four clips altogether. The sound quality is very poor and I had to turn the sound up quite considerably to hear what was being said. Picture quality is also pretty rough. The clips show Farrell sitting in a seat, acting out a scene from the movie. Someone else is in the room with him playing out the other part. Farrell is a superb actor, but I found myself fast-forwarding these scenes as they just weren’t interesting enough.

Tigerland is a film which deserves to be more successful then it is. This is one of the best war movies to be released for a long time. It doesn’t just focus on the fears that young soldiers face but also the friendships that can be built during difficult situations. The video and audio quality is superb, and the disc is only really let down by the lack of quality extras. There are some extras on the disc, but they are not that interesting and don’t really add anything to the film. Tigerland is not going to appeal to everyone, its not your typical war movie but then again that is a good thing. Tigerland is original, powerful and extremely entertaining. A definite recommendation.