• Publication date: November 13, 2011

The Bullets Are Real, The People Are Fake Tropic Thunder: Hollywood Heroes Meet Their Match

Tropic Thunder is a mockumentary trailing director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) and his egotistical cast as he films a Vietnam-era war epic. The picture is based upon a memoir penned by John 'Four Leaf' Tayback (Nick Nolte), a veteran who lost his hands in combat. Studio executives are threatening to sack Cockburn, whose inability to tame his unruly cast caused the production to fall a month behind schedule. Tayback suggests filming in a Vietnamese jungle to evoke a more realistic performance from the actors.

Tropic Thunder is a mockumentary trailing director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) and his egotistical cast as he films a Vietnam-era war epic. The picture is based upon a memoir penned by John 'Four Leaf' Tayback (Nick Nolte), a veteran who lost his hands in combat. Studio executives are threatening to sack Cockburn, whose inability to tame his unruly cast caused the production to fall a month behind schedule. Tayback suggests filming in a Vietnamese jungle to evoke a more realistic performance from the actors.

Cockburn and the crew travel by helicopter deep into Vietnam's jungles. Numerous cameras are situated around the perimeter, recording each individual's actions, both scripted and unscripted. Before Cockburn is even able to yell "action," however he steps onto a landmine that propels his body parts in multiple directions. The film's producer and co-star, Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) convinces his fellow cast members that Cockburn is not dead, and that the explosion was an elaborate hoax � despite finding his severed head nearby. Regardless, from this point forward Speedman assumes the role of director.

The surrounding jungle appears uninhabited and tranquil, yet the cast has unknowingly entered territory claimed by the Flaming Dragons, a large-scale heroin manufacturer who mistakes the thesps for DEA agents. Similarly, the visitors from Tinseltown assume that the Dragons are hired actors to participate in combat scenes. When Speedman and the others begin emptying blank bullets into the air, the Dragons return fire with live ammunition. Soon the crew realizes that rehearsal has ended, and that this is definitely not a movie set.

Tropic Thunder ridicules performers who depict heroes on screen and then foolishly attempt to maintain a similar persona in real-life. For example rapper turned actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) professes to be the ultimate womanizing gangster, yet is a closeted homosexual. The picture also lampoons actors whose supposed dedication to their craft borders on insanity, specifically Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) who chemically alters his skin and adopts a questionably 'black' dialect, while refusing to break character throughout weeks of filming.

The Stiller-directed pic was nominated for an Oscar and 2 Golden Globes. By the end of its theatrical run the film earned twice its $92 million production budget; DVD sales generated an additional $49 million. Soundtrack includes artists such as Quiet Riot, The Temptations, Steppenwolf, The Rolling Stones and many others.

Year: 2008

Duration: 107 minutes

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy

Starring:

Ben Stiller

Robert Downey, Jr.

Jack Black

Brandon T. Jackson

Jay Baruchel

Director: Ben Stiller

Rating: Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content, and drug material.