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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Duty Calls

Tigerland on IMDb

Plot Overview

ole gloryWheeler & Becker have documented a marine named Mike who recounts how:
I took my six weeks of basic training at Parris Island. It was sheer hell. ¶After basic training I spent thirteen weeks in basic infantry training at Camp Lejeune … and the harassment didn't let up. ¶From Lejeune I went to Camp Pendleton for four weeks staging. It was at Pendleton where we adjusted our basic training at Parris and Lejeune to the situation in Vietnam. (298–9)

"Tigerland" portrays the army version. The grunts are out of basic training and now in infantry school at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The final week they spend at an isolated part of North Fort Polk called Tigerland, which mimics conditions in Vietnam where they're all headed.

boy misses the draftBoyer et al note “that the war's toll fell most heavily on the nation's poor. Thanks to college deferments, the subtle use of influence, and a military-assignment system that shunted the better educated to desk jobs, lower-class youths were twice as likely to be drafted and, if drafted, twice as likely to be assigned to combat duty as those from the middle class” (1025.) The movers and shakers in the U.S. were not inclined to end the war, not having a personal stake in it. It's like gang violence in a Vachss novel where: “these Hong Kong kids made the old Tong wars look like a polite debate—the intensity of their disputes was measured in body counts. The only time they killed Caucasians was by accident, so they weren't considered a major law-enforcement problem” (264.)

This movie is set in September, 1971 when the army draft was scraping the bottom of the barrel. The two bright stars in this class were Pvt. Jim Paxton (Matthew Davis) who enlisted after two years of college, and Pvt. Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell) who was drafted after he'd dropped out of state college after one year to go work construction. Bozz, it turns out, is good soldier material but chafes at the bit. He's a Texan and a born leader. He also knows how to shoot straight, being he's from Texas.


This movie is defined by the YELLING done by the drill instructors and by the hue and cry raised by soldiers looking for a way out. As such we might consider applying, (Prov. 30:15-16) “The horse­leach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.” Two groups of vulnerable individuals crying for care are decrepit old folks headed for the grave and helpless infants fresh out of the womb. Soldiering by those some­where in between provides needed security for both. Newly promoted platoon guide Sgt. Miter (Clifton Collins Jr.) being unable to cope with training—to say nothing of combat—received a psycho­logical discharge under section 8. Private Cantwell (Tom Guiry) having a wife and four young children back home received a hard­ship discharge.

ruffled book“The earth that is not filled with water” speaks of drainage even in rainy Louisiana—or Vietnam—where the ground dries up enough for the soldiers to dig their trenches (“Eat dirt”) and for a couple of desperate men to consider jumping from a box car to break their legs hitting solid ground below. Especially pertinent is when the pages of Paxton's journal get strewn across the ground. It's dry enough to not consume the print outright. He's been “taking notes on every­thing.” He wants to be a famous writer “like James Joyce or Hemingway.” He'll write about the war. Maybe we'll think twice about fighting the next one. Maybe we can work out the conflict between capitalism and communism on paper. He says, “I'm gonna write a whole book about you, Bozz.”

plowing“The fire that saith not, It is enough,” is the burning human metabolism that must be fueled from cradle to grave. All those mouths to feed, all the time. This movie expands on this theme. First, the food has to be grown. The boys are training to “kill women and children in their little rice paddies.”

grocery shoppingbutcherThen the food has to be marketed. Miter confesses, “You know what I am Bozz? I'm a butcher. … I mean a real butcher. Back home I cut meat.” His daddy mocked him saying he “was just a store boy,” but for Miter, “That's all I ever wanted to be.”

washerspudNext, meals have to be prepared in the kitchen. We see soldiers given KP duty peeling a whole mound of potatoes.

cafeteriaThen there's chowing down the grub. We see the soldiers in Tigerland sitting down as a group to eat their field rations.

barkAnd don't forget dessert. A group of Negroes sing about what they miss back home, one of them crooning “I miss my grandma's apple pie.”

candy canesThen there's the between meals snack. A couple local dames develop a sudden hunger after their tryst with two of the boys. Says one, “Hey, I got the munchies!” Being ignored, she adds, “Guys, help us. we're hungry, you know.” They dash off to find some­thing to eat. People must be fed.

Production Values

” (2000) was directed by Joel Schumacher. It stars Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Shea Whigham and Clifton Collins Jr. The acting was decent after they found their pace. Of note was Thomas Guiry playing a poor sod from the Louisiana bayous. Many of the actors were unknowns.

MPAA rated it R for violence, pervasive language, a scene of strong sexuality and some drug use. The handheld cameras were steady against a green back­ground that looked the same in any direction. It was filmed on 16 mm stock, on location in Florida.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

The boys mostly just wanted to go home, which is how I felt on account of it reminding me of their times. I'd graduated college in 1970 and the Vietnam War was still going strong, so I'd had to make new plans having lost my student deferment and drawn a low draft number. Others might more appreciate the realism. The free love ambiance of the '60s came across strong too, before most people wised up. It was a well made movie, a bit predictable save for a loose cannon they inter­jected into it. See it if you like gung ho war movies or if you hold reservations about senseless fighting.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software

Boyer, Paul S., et al. The Enduring Vision A History of the American People. Vol. 2. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath & Co., 1993. Print.

Vachss, Andrew H. Flood. Copyright © 1985 by Andrew H. Vachss. New York: Donald I. Fine. Print.

Wheeler, William Bruce and Susan D. Becker. Discovering the American Past Third edition. Vol. II: Since 1865. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994. Print.