Rated: R
Stars: Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Clifton Collins Jr.

It may take a bit of a hunting expedition to find this movie in the theaters, but it will be worth it. Or, at least look for it on videotape after a while. This is an excellent Vietnam-era ensemble drama. Shot in 16-mm, with handheld cameras, what you get is a very realistic, semi-documentary tour de force.

It’s set in 1971. The war is in full swing and thousands of casualties have left people, including some soldiers in training, with little enthusiasm or gung-ho spirit. This is the story of men getting ready to be shipped overseas and the trials and tribulations they face both mentally and physically as they train to become competent and fearless soldiers.

Heading up the platoon are Private Jim Paxton (Matthew Davis) who believes he has a duty and plays to that strength. He’s the one keeping a daily journal that he hopes will one day become a famous novel. He befriends Private Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell, an actor with a strong Russell Crowe-like presence, dangerous good looks and intensity), a rebel who’s not afraid of ticking off his superiors or anyone else who crosses his path. Bozz is a thinker and a fighter, wanting out of the Army and not to become a killing machine. Yet, with his natural leadership ability, he’s the one who eventually gets ordered to become platoon leader. He has the respect of his men who admire his cool exterior and his smarts.

Boot camp is a harrowing experience where men are broken and their fears revealed honestly and completely. Bozz is able to use his knowledge of military rules to help a couple of other men make it home before they lose their minds. Based in Fort Polk, Louisiana, the platoon is just one step from going to “Tigerland”, an area nearby turned into a mock-up of a Vietnam jungle where military games are more real than any of them want to know about. And each moment of the film, we know one way or the other, we’ll get there too and live their same fears.

Lotta says
Farrell is especially personable and the entire cast is strong. Writers Ross Klavan and Michael McGruther have given us a strong character-driven drama, one that humanizes the soldiers – all of them – and gives us a good look at where loyalty and friendship fit in. Surprisingly directed by Joel Schumacher.

Also features: Clifton Collins Jr. as Miter, Shea Whigham as Wilson, the wacko, Tom Guiry as Cantwell, Cole Hauser as Sergeant Cota

It’s rated R for violence, very strong language, one scene of nudity/sexuality, and some drug use.

Reviewed 12/6/00