28 October 2004 | mentalcritic
A story so funny it has to be true...
Well, in reality, I suspect the story behind Buffalo Soldiers has picked up a bit of embellishment along the way from modern folklore to big screen, but that's hardly surprising. What is surprising is that such a basic story can be turned into such a funny film. It's not so much ha-ha funny as it is just ironic funny. Indeed, the story about one woman screaming protests about the so-called anti-American sentiment of the film and flinging a bottle at the screen tells me that some people still expect their comedy to be spoonfed to them.
If anything, this film reads like a celebration of the things that the citizens of Western societies take for granted. With soldiers situated far from home, and having nothing better to do than play games of indoor gridiron at times, it's a small wonder that soldiers turn to drug abuse or other such illegal activity in order to stave off boredom. Stir craziness is a problem in any army during peacetime, although one can't help but wonder if we're not being shown a rather extreme example here.
The basis of this black comedy is in the solid performances of the principal cast. Joaquin Phoenix shows once again that he has a great talent, while Ed Harris and Scott Glenn do an admirable job of playing the straight arrows. But it is another moderated little-girl-lost type of performance from the ever-wonderful Anna Paquin that at least kept this viewer engaged. This woman could make a ninety minute film in which she reads the telephone book, and I'd probably enjoy it.
The corruption shown in this film is hardly surprising, given how little soldiers seem to be paid in comparison to the stress they endure. If there is indeed any truth to the depicitions of drug abuse, then it's not surprising anymore that employers are currently employing random drug testing. Dr. Strangelove couldn't get more spot-on about how the human element of the military is generally its undoing. After one memorable sequence involving drugged tank drivers, I'll never be able to catch sight of an army vehicle without getting the urge to run away, screaming.
I gave Buffalo Soldiers an eight out of ten. Under normal circumstances, I would have given it a seven, but it has Anna Paquin in it, and any film with Anna Paquin in it can earn a bonus point. If you like your comedy without obvious prompts of when you're meant to laugh, then you can't go wrong with Buffalo Soldiers.