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Film / Tigerland

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"You're thinking that you'll be the one to go somewhere safe. That you'll be the one to luck out. Tigerland, gentlemen, is where you'll stop bullshitting yourself."

Tigerland is a 2000 movie directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Colin Farrell and Matthew Davis.

Set in 1971, the film tells the story of a unit in their last stages of training before they're due to be sent to Vietnam. Jim Paxton, a Naïve Newcomer and one of the few volunteers in his unit, crosses paths with and is eventually taken under the wing of Private Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell). Bozz is determined to not be sent to the war and does everything he can to cause trouble while also helping several other soldiers to escape the war by finding various loopholes in the army's regulations. Naturally, this earns him quite a few enemies - both among the volunteers in his company and among his superiors.

The movie, while not widely-known and only gaining a limited theatrical release, is often considered to be one of Schumacher's best directorial efforts as well as being credited with being Colin Farrell's breakout performance.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: It's unclear whether the abuse ever got physical, but from the little we learn of Miter's relationship with his father, verbal and emotional abuse were par for the course.
  • Accidental Hero: Played with. Bozz continuously denies that he's this, even when soldiers desperate to go home clearly do, and his first attempt at getting a fellow soldier discharged does seem to be an accident...but then it's revealed he's done the same thing several times before and is a natural leader.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Subverted. Bozz and Cantwell (a young and fairly slow-witted soldier) try to convince their superiors that this applies to Cantwell's knowledge of army regulations. They don't buy it for a moment.
    Saunders: Who put you up to this, son?
    Cantwell: No one, sir. I know my rights.
    Saunders: No you don't.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Bozz salutes Sgt. Thomas as he's leaving to go to Vietnam and apologises for his poor behaviour before Flipping the Bird. Sgt. Thomas can't help cracking a smile at that.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Invoked. Paxton claims that he never saw or heard from Bozz again after Bozz left for the war and heard several theories on what happened to him: he either died, disappeared once in Vietnam and somehow managed to get home, or ended up in Mexico.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Paxton volunteered in order to experience what war would be like. Once they reach Tigerland, he's very firmly out of his depth.
    • A more mild example: Bozz, Paxton, Johnson and several others repeatedly express their desire that Wilson be transferred (or kicked out the army) so they won't have to deal with him anymore. Wilson is eventually be put in charge of their rival unit at Tigerland which he interprets as giving him an excuse to really go after them all.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: A mild example compared to most, but still. The men are, barring one or two exceptions, consistently fairly well-groomed despite a punishing training schedule and several brutal fights.
  • Berserk Button: Wilson gets annoyed by Bozz's mere existence a lot of the time, but when Bozz is effectively promoted over him, his hatred for him increases.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Bozz is, by all accounts, one of the kindest and most mild-tempered guys in the entire army. But as Wilson finds out if he's pushed too far, he will make you regret it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bozz saves Paxton from going to the war, giving up his own chance to leave and also getting Wilson courtmartialled in the process. However, the rest of the unit heads off to Vietnam, taking Bozz with them, and the two friends never see each other again.
  • Blithe Spirit: Bozz intentionally invokes this.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Bozz again. He acts like he doesn't care about army regulations and spends most of the training exercises early in the film deliberately messing up until he's ordered to do it properly, and generally tries to paint himself as something of an aloof selfish jerk, but it becomes increasingly obvious that he would be the best soldier in the unit if only he'd let himself be.
    Lt. Saunders: You are a goddamn piece of work, Bozz. I believe you could soldier as well as any man in this army, I even think you want to. But you won't.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Most of the officers do this sooner or later (as is probably only to be expected).
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Implied as part of Miter's backstory. Unfortunately for him, it didn't end happily.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Again, it's probably only to be expected given the setting.
  • Comically Missing the Point: It's during a very dramatic moment (as Miter is effectively having a breakdown) but when Miter starts trying to tell Bozz about his civilian life, it seems he doesn't choose his words carefully enough:
    Miter: You know what I am, Bozz? I'm a butcher.
    Bozz: (dismissively) We're all butchers, Miter.
    Miter: Nah, I'm a real butcher.
    Bozz: (bewildered) Shit, you ain't killed anyone yet.
    Miter: (snapping) Goddammit Bozz, I mean a real butcher! Back home, I cut meat!
  • Darker and Edgier: Than most of Joel Schumacher's movies, to the point where you almost wouldn't know he directed it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone gets in on it at least once, but Bozz takes the cake.
    (During target practice, Sgt. Thomas yells at the unit, telling them they're all dead because they've been standing around talking)
    Sgt. Thomas: Any questions?
    Bozz: I got a question. If I'm dead, how come I can ask you a question?
  • Death Seeker: Subverted. Bozz jokingly refers to Paxton as this several times (ribbing on the fact that Paxton is one of the few volunteers in the unit). He's wrong though.
  • Deep South: Several members of the unit apparently come from this area. They're all being trained in Louisiana, after all.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Racial slurs abound in pretty much every direction. It's also discreetly lampshaded in-universe after the unit is given a lecture on what to do if they suspect an ambush:
    Ezra: In 'Nam, you hear something in the bushes - anything, and I mean anything - and you open fire. You fire into those goddamn bushes until you kill whatever made that sound. And when the sun comes up, I don't give a tinker's fuck if there's a man, woman, child or little Johnny from next door! You kill it or you're not coming home.
    Paxton: Just like the My-Lai massacre, sergeant?
  • Despair Event Horizon: Miter hits it after the stress of having to lead gets to him. He ends up having a nervous breakdown and being discharged due to being diagnosed with depression.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Even after Wilson makes it clear how much he hates Bozz, Bozz still can't resist finding ways to bait him.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Bozz once he's promoted to Platoon Guide:
    Bozz: Look guys, I ain't taking any of this fuckin' shit seriously. All I ask is that you do whatever you have to do so we can live together.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Played with. Most of the officers in the movie seem to fit this trope, but with each of them it gradually becomes clear that they're just trying to do their jobs in a way that will keep as many of the soldiers alive while in Vietnam as possible.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Again, this appears to be most of the officers' attitudes towards Bozz and the rest of the less-eager draftees. It ends up being lampshaded near the end of the film after Bozz tries subverting yet another bleak-ending scenario about what might happen if a Vietnamese soldier sees a lit cigarette.
    Coda: It's all about respect. Respect for their superiors and what they're trying to teach you. Respect for yourselves and your unit. And most important, respect for the enemy.
  • During the War: Vietnam
  • Dumb Is Good: Cantwell pretty much embodies this trope. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Bozz almost instantly helps him get out of the army.
  • Engineered Public Confession: An interesting variation. Despite Bozz (and the others) claiming numerous times that Wilson is essentially a time-bomb, it's not until Wilson has been goaded enough that he actively attempts to shoot Bozz during training in full view of the officers that anything is done about it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Wilson's only constant friend and supporter is visibly shocked when he notices Wilson swapping out his blanks for live ammo during a training exercise and works out that he genuinely intends to kill Bozz and possibly Paxton too.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: Enforced by Bozz when he's about to leave Paxton behind at the end, taking his spot in Vietnam. Paxton offers to write to Bozz, but Bozz turns him down and wishes him a final farewell instead.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Bozz and Paxton have an element of being this.
  • Foil: The rebellious, mild-tempered and outgoing Bozz serves as one to both the more reserved Paxton and the impulsive and violent Wilson.
  • Foreshadowing: Bozz makes repeated claims that he's going to avoid going to Vietnam and each time his remarks are shot down. He ends up missing his chance to escape to Mexico and is sent to Vietnam.
    • Bozz also makes a quip to Paxton after narrowly avoiding being killed by Wilson, asking if Paxton's jealous that Bozz got the near-death experience when Paxton's the one that wanted it so badly. Bozz ensures that Paxton doesn't go to Vietnam, despite having volunteered, and goes in his place.
  • God Is Good: Expressed by Cantwell in a speech to Bozz and Paxton while the trio are peeling potatoes.
  • Gung Holier Than Thou: Wilson. His initial dislike for Bozz is down to seeing Bozz reading a pacifistic novel.
  • Hate Sink: Wilson. Sgt. Thomas also comes close but it's implied that a lot of his intolerance for Bozz et al's misbehaviour comes from being tired of seeing such antics when they're trying to get men ready for a war that's genuinely horrifically dangerous. Wilson, on the other hand, is merely a bigoted psychopath whose irrational hatred of Bozz (and anyone who is friends with him) leads him to attack Bozz when the latter is returning to the barracks, try and shoot Bozz twice and generally spend the entire movie being a pain in everyone's ass.
  • The Hedonist: Bozz. To the point where, about 5 minutes after a drug-fuelled sex fest, he's off looking for another girl.
  • Heroic BSoD: Bozz has a minor one after their rival unit led by Wilson attack him and beat up Paxton. It's the only time the threat of what they're all about to get into really seems to get to him to the point that he becomes as selfish as he's always tried to present himself and even tries running away. He comes back a few hours later though.
  • I Was Just Joking: A variation. After one of Bozz's escapades, Cantwell enthusiastically voices his support for Bozz, leading Sgt. Thomas to identify him as another potential troublemaker and nip it in the bud.
  • Insult Backfire: When Wilson calls Bozz a "bleeding heart son of a bitch" and claims he has no right to tell people what to do, Bozz uses his new-gained authority as Platoon Guide to immediately tell Wilson to shut up and sit down before taking care of the severely depressed Miter.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: Downplayed (since they were probably going to hate each other sooner or later) but Wilson's irrational hatred of Bozz is sparked because he happens to notice Bozz reading a pacifistic book.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: In one scene, an officer (played by Michael Shannon) demonstrates how to use a field telephone as a torture device, first on a worm and then on Miter (though it's only faked when it's Miter's turn - still freaks him out plenty though). Most of the soldiers are visibly disgusted/horrified by this to the point where Bozz walks away asking why anyone would want to do that to another human being.
  • Jerkass: Wilson - a bigoted, violent, borderline-psychopath - and Sgt. Thomas, who is the only officer in the movie to seem to genuinely enjoy being as nasty as he can to those he dislikes.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Some of the officers, Ezra and Coda in particular, fall under this: they're as strict and blunt as you would expect, but at the end of the day they have a job to do and ultimately they just want the men to know enough to come back in one piece.
  • Just Following Orders: At one point, Paxton implies this was the reason for the horrific My-Lai massacre, hinting at a systemic problem within the army. It goes down about as well as you would expect.
  • Karma Houdini: Wilson, at least to begin with. Also an interesting case with Bozz: despite deliberately trying to make life as difficult for his superiors (and Wilson) as he can, he's only given minor punishments, with the real punishment being that there is no punishment - his goal is to avoid being sent to the war and his superiors are going to make damn sure that that's exactly what happens to him.
    Saunders: I don't want you in the stockade. I don't want you recycled. I don't want you drummed out on some bad conduct discharge. I want you exactly where you are, and we'll just naturally chew you up.
  • Loophole Abuse: Bozz's preferred method of getting people out of the army - as well as the army's preferred method of keeping people in.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: While no specific examples are shown, the spirit is on full display throughout the movie.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: Wilson removes his blank firing adapter and swaps out his magazine of blanks for live rounds in Tigerland to attempt to kill Bozz.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: After Wilson has tried (and failed) to beat Bozz in an ambush at their barracks, Bozz doesn't join in the general taunting Wilson receives, or even crack a smile. It's the first sign that the entire situation is really starting to get to him.
  • Oh, Crap!: The general reaction when the unit notices the leader of their rival unit in Tigerland is Wilson.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Bozz fires a flash muzzle close to Paxton's face, resulting in an eye injury that prohibits him from being sent to the war but which apparently will leave no lasting damage.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Colin Farrell has a fairly convincing Texan accent throughout the movie but there are a couple of times when his Irish accent slips through.
  • Protagonist-Centred Morality: In most situations, having a co-worker like Bozz would be absolute hell since he spends most of his time actively attempting to piss off as many people as possible (not to mention the fact that in the army, being able to 100% rely and trust on the people around you to follow orders is vital). Here, however, he's presented as the kind of person we should all try to be.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Ezra and Coda are the only officers who make an effort to talk to the soldiers as though they're actually human beings. As such, they're the only ones Bozz shows the slightest degree of genuine respect to.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: At several points, an officer rhetorically asks if there are any questions. Cue one of the others (usually Bozz) asking a stupid question.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Several of the soldiers want to get out of going to war - Bozz helps Cantwell and Miter get discharged and contemplates running away himself, and he and Paxton discuss breaking their own legs at one point to get themselves out. This is generally the overwhelming attitude with regards to the prospect of actually going to Vietnam.
    Private: Fellas say that if you don't wanna go to 'Nam, you better pray to Jesus...or talk to Roland Bozz.
  • Seemingly Profound Fool: Cantwell tells Bozz and Paxton about his civilian life and his thoughts on religion in a speech that moves Bozz to tears and inspires him to help get Cantwell out of the army.
  • Tropes Are Tools: Discussed. When Paxton tells Bozz he's planning to write a book about his experiences, Bozz mocks this by pointing out all the tropes Paxton could potentially use.
  • Try Not to Die: The basis for everything the unit is put through.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Played with. Paxton and Bozz both come to the other's defence at various points and each time the other will scold them for it...only to somehow admit they're thankful later.
    Bozz: Dammit, Paxton! No one saves each other, you stupid son of a bitch...
  • The Vietnam Vet: Most of the officers, and all the officers at Tigerland, are stated to have already served in the war.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Bozz and Paxton spend as much time insulting and mocking each other as they do having fun together. There's no doubt they are friends though, which only makes the ending more bittersweet.
  • War Is Hell: The feeling held by pretty much all the characters - or at least this war is hell.