Who would have thought director Joel Schumacher - purveyor of such big-budget, glossy pulp as "Batman Forever" and "Dying Young", would have been able to pull of this unexpected delight of a movie?
Shot on digital video, which lends it a suitably grainy, documentary quality, "Tigerland" is set in Louisiana in 1971 at a boot camp preparing young Americans for Vietnam. Seen through the eyes of sensitive recruit Paxton (Matthew Davis), it focuses on Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell), a Randall McMurphy-esque conscript who displays a natural flair for leadership, but is more content to rebel against the system.
Boot camp as a place for dramatic tension is not an untouched resource (see the endlessly grim first half of "Full Metal Jacket" for proof), but this is a little different to most Vietnam flicks, in that it concentrates less on highlighting the futility of the conflict and more on the lives of the men being sent into battle.
Despite his usual ability to spend more time on set design than he does on actors, Schumacher handles the more intimate setting with great skill, aided by some great acting, deft cinematography from Darren Aronofsky's cohort Matthew Libatique, and a phenomenally charismatic central performance by unknown Irishman Colin Farrell.
Harnessing all of Bozz's intensity, courage, loyalty, and anger in one very magnetic and - okay - good-looking whole, Farrell more than earns the plaudits which have been regaled upon him for the role. This man is going to be a mega-star.
Read a review of the DVD.