Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Tunnel Rats


Written & Directed by: Uwe Boll
Starring: Michael Pare

Now we all know Uwe Boll is pretty much hated and definitely not considered the greatest of filmmakers. After dud videogame adaptations such as House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark and Bloodrayne and his many, many outspoken protest against, well, any film or filmmaker that isn’t his or him, Boll has received some of the harshest criticism any filmmaker has probably received. Ever. Now, I’m no fan of Alone in the Dark or Bloodrayne but Tunnel Rats is a completely different kettle of fish (at least for Boll), shows he is trying for something different and actually isn’t half bad.

Rather than look at the Vietnam War as a whole, Boll’s film focuses on a group of grunts thrust into the jungle whose mission is to clear out hundreds of miles of underground tunnels. These tunnels are infested with Vietnamese soldiers who use them to secretly get around the jungle. Armed with nothing but flash lights and handguns, the soldiers from both sides lock in battle underground as they find themselves having to do the unthinkable in order to survive. Focusing on just one facet of the war adds to the claustrophobic feel of the film as the soldiers from both sides are trapped in one section of the jungle and often underground for long periods of time. This lends itself to the feeling of isolation and the soldiers often wondering what the hell they are doing in this god forsaken place.

After some initial set up and the predictable “War is Hell” speeches and monologues, Tunnels Rats turns into a claustrophobic and tense experience, about soldiers fighting for their lives underground. Boll successfully captures the pointlessness of it all; protagonists from both sides never really wanting to kill but finding themselves having to. Boll sympathizes with each side, despite the narrative being mostly concerned with the American plight, taking an objective stance and simply showing a group of people caught up in horrific and pointless situation. Boll has also developed skill at orchestrating scenes of suspense as the two sides’ battle underground. Some shocking scenes showcase the brutality and short life span of a tunnel rat and if you are at all claustrophobic then the underground scenes will be particularly terrifying.

The flick is also well made, nicely shot and Boll even stages an impressive fire fight topside in the jungle. He can’t quite get away from some unnecessary gore which would be more suited to a horror movie (the hanging scene) but as a whole, Tunnel Rats is a tense, well crafted war film that refuses to compromise and despite his reputation and track record, shows Boll does have some talent behind the camera.

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