As directorial reputations go Uwe Boll does not have a good one. Known as a director of inept, tasteless, below bargain basement, exploitation and horror fodder, his name is generally seen when discussions of the worst directors come up. And given some of his output I have come across, that derision is not unwarranted.
However whatever debits those films bring to the table, cannot be held against the surprising accolades the movie TUNNEL RATS (aka TUNNEL RATS 1968) garners. Seen under that title this film covers what appears to be 48 hours in the life of an incoming specialized US unit, Tunnel Rats as they were nicknamed for obvious reasons, tasked with the job of pacifying the deadly Vietcong Tunnels.
Not a single minute of its 96 minute running time is wasted, as I found this movie riveting and myself glued to every frame until the last poetic and haunting one. What is so nice about this film is there is a deft and poetic hand behind the camera, from views of ants moving ceaselessly through the trees, to the dying of a candle. While eschewing Hollywood sentiment there’s yet a thread of subtlety here, a word one word not think of in terms of Uwe Boll but it is here in this film, and the film is strong because of its… subtlety.
Another strength of the film is its not the status quo American Vietnam War film, this movie shows the Vietcong as more than largely faceless and emotionless cyphers for America to workout its questions and regrets about Vietnam against. PLATOON and FULL METAL JACKET, while undisputed masterpieces, the enemy is largely just a screen for America to have its very insular discussion of national identity against. Which one could argue was the whole problem with America’s involvement with Vietnam to begin with.
It was never really, for the proverbial America, about Vietnam.
In TUNNEL RATS the Vietcong, have an emotional range and a back-story and families. It is a refreshing break from typical American jingoistic tinged cinema. This incisive critique of American mendacities and denial of American tropes of storytelling, sets TUNNEL RATS 1968 apart and above expectations; and really must define Uwe Boll as a filmmaker, when invested in a project with a subtle hand, to reckon with.
It is really a quite impressive film and along with ATTACK ON WALL STREET is one of Uwe Boll’s best films. Grade: B+. I highly recommend a viewing courtesy of POPCORN FLIX.