Tiger Raid was a mostly inscrutable film, about what it takes for killers to survive themselves, and what some do to survive killers. I think.
We were introduced to a pair of mercenaries (Private Contractor is just too… PC) in progress, Joe & Paddy (Brian Gleeson, Damien Molony), as they bloviated their way across an open desert, headed to their latest job. As burly as Joe was presented, Paddy seemed to be the unknown quantity that Joe felt the need to vet. Joe’s eyes should have been on their absent overseer.
By the time Paddy & Joe effortlessly kill their way past a checkpoint, I realized that the only thing such men ever have to fear is themselves, or each other – and that they will be having each other, all to themselves, for much of the film.
The most influential character of the film was never seen nor heard; but would be both the source & center of the film’s conflict. Dave was more than their employer/ handler, he provided much of what kept Joe going. When your life becomes all about dealing death, a desperate need to remain grounded usually arises – and for Joe, that meant ceaselessly marching to Dave’s drum.
Joe’s need to be a believer provided Paddy with his own dilemma, regarding the pair’s relationship with Dave; but the outcome to their mission – a relatively small piece of a larger (off-screen) operation – removed any element of control that each man only thought he had, over events, and each other. The taking of a hostage named Shadha (Sofia Boutella) would leave all three prisoners of Dave’s world; but as they were bound by Shadha & Dave, respectively, Paddy & Joe served as their own jailers.
At this point, both Gleeson & Molony doubled down on their opening performances. Between Joe’s belligerence boiling over, and Paddy’s efforts at coiled control, the tension was tangible & ever-present. Boutella, on the other hand, brought a measured contempt to her role, which seemed to inexplicably belie her character’s predicament. Well, there turned out to be a good reason for that.
Shadha’s role was to tip the first domino. Through an inconvenient truth, about Shadha’s past, Joe felt compelled to test Paddy’s loyalty – only to find the real truth more inconvenient for Paddy. Delusional, would be another fitting description, to an extent that prompted Joe to face his own delusions. As a succession of rationalized realities were alternately offered, forced, and accepted, an off-screen crisis – involving the phantom driver of their fates – presented an opportunity to bring some kind of resolution to their psychodrama. The final domino, however, would land at Shadha’s feet.
However helpless these hardened mercenaries were, in the face of their inner demons – bending rejected realities to match convenient memory – Shadha had to bend to convenient memory, just to survive reality. The sheer functionality of her condition left in a fairly pivotal position; but the inherent dysfunction to Joe & Paddy just made for a more prescient blind-spot.
One captive walked away from that conflict; but no one survived.
The most telling moment, about the Tiger Raid experience, actually came after the screening – when a promoter, myself, and a pair of other reviewers stopped to blindly regard the elephant. I don’t recall the third reviewer’s reference; but the other gentleman saw my Heart of Darkness, and raised with The Crying Game. I think we broke even. There was also mention of Waiting for Godot; but Heart of Darkness is a heavy enough carry, as it is.
I was upfront about not being sure of what I had just seen, after the screening; but I thought getting a setting might help – and it did. I was told it was set in present day Afghanistan, and somehow that put a lot of pieces in place.
Ever heard the saying “rob a burning house?” Of all the variations to Sun Tzu’s principles, this Japanese adaptation has been one of my favorites. The idea is that the best time to rob someone’s home is when they (and the authorities) are too busy trying to save the whole, to notice what you’re doing with a relatively small piece. Considering the state of the Middle East, any number of conflicts could have colored the events of Tiger Raid; and I felt the need to factor in whose house was being robbed, and how the bulk of the raiders may have been burned, off-screen.
Later, I’d find that most every other synopsis would cite Iraq as the setting – granting me a better appreciation for the film, when the irrelevance of the setting set in.
As interchangeable as all of these regional conflicts can be, to professional beasts of no nation, all conflict becomes an interchangeable backdrop, when compared to the inner workings of the professionally beastly.
What made Heart of Darkness so universal, as to be transplanted from 19th century Africa to 20th century S.E. Asia (Apocalypse Now) so easily, was the nature of Kurtz. Not that I would compare either man to a transplant gone native despot; but the nature of morals, ethics, and other concepts we take for granted as natural, do funny things when removed from familiar social constructs – more so, when isolated completely. Solitary confinement might do well as a deterrent; but it defeats the purpose of rehabilitation. Should a man actually choose to remove himself from all social construct – as I believe Joe & Paddy had – and there may be no bottom to depths their minds could plumb.
Beyond a few early victims, and Ruby (Rory Fleck-Byrne) – the name & face behind the names & faces behind Joe’s demons – the film was a three character affair. This provided it with something of stage play quality; but setting such an intimate study against such a large backdrop may have worked against it, however – distracting from the simple brutality to each character.
Tiger Raid was about escapism, war as a metronome to personal demons. It was also about conforming/ being conformed by such demons, as a way to drown out the sounds of first the metronome, and then the demons, themselves. If we’re not careful, managing our own rationalizations, we risk becoming the victims of someone else’s efforts.
That was my rationalization, anyway, of an otherwise long journey through the heart of a short subject.
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