Director: Christian Duguay
Cast: Mila Kunis, Peter Stormare, Gregory Smith
Runtime: 99 minutes
What loving mother would sign over the care of her only daughter to a monster like me?
-Dr. Norman Hail (Peter Stormare)
Papillon meets Lord of the Flies in Boot Camp, a self-styled thriller about the tough love movement and its effect on the children that are thrust into it.
Sophie (Mila Kunis) is the troubled teen who has yet to come to grips with the death of her father or her mother’s remarriage. Lashing out at her family and embarking on a self-destructive path her stepfather signs her up for A.S.A.P., a tough love camp that promises rehabilitation for troubled youths in a serene tropical setting but delivers something else entirely. The children are beaten and abused, malnourished, brainwashed and eventually set against each other as the only way to “advance” up through the ranks and prove their rehabilitation. Ben (Gregory Smith) is Sophie’s boyfriend who refuses to write Sophie off the way her family has, endeavoring to find her and eventually getting himself sent off to the same camp by his parents. Dr. Hail (Peter Stormare) runs the camp with a monomaniacal zeal with the help of his “enforcer”, an Army deserter who apparently is there because Dr. Hail has leverage on him but takes to his activities with his own ruthless determination, routinely forcing girls to exchange sex for advancement and eventual release.
Boot Camp has a powerful tale to tell but reaches too far and tends to ask too much of the viewer. While many parents have relegated their children to boot camps such as Dr. Hail’s, this camp goes the extra step of seizing and handcuffing the children, dragging them off and sending them to an island for as long as two years with no communication from their families. Ben, desperate to find a way to be with Sophie, is apparently able to convince his parents to take this drastic step after a few weeks – claiming that he was depressed and turned to drugs when his girlfriend broke up with him. Wooden performances and shallow characters don’t do much to help suspend the disbelief.
The movie is meant to be an indictment of the parents who would subject their children to these measures instead of just doing their jobs as parents, with Sophie’s mother painted in passing as the villain for letting her new husband dictate what Sophie needs and Dr. Hail making a fleeting attempt at convincing the parents of the children in his care that they brought this on themselves. As the children rise up against their oppressors in the end, they are the ones who develop a conscience and refuse to be what their parents seemed to think they were, seemingly making them all innocent victims all along.
Boot Camp bills itself as an action/thriller movie, but plays best when viewed as a docudrama on the boot camp/tough love movement and the “parents” who choose that over doing their jobs as parents – the ones who truly deserve the boot.