In this day and age, the tag of 'Based on Real Events' is pretty much laughable. There is usually no question that the connection to any real events is tenuous at best. Such is the case with Christian Duguay's "Boot Camp". Yes such camps exist, yes they get free reign to treat your kids however they want. However, the over the top tale of love and rescue that takes place in this film is way to saccharine to be believable.
Sophie is a problem child. With her father passed on and her mother remarried to a politician, she just wants to party and tell her parents to stuff it. Danny is tired of his parents oppressive hold over him and rebels by faking a Columbine style threat upon his school. Finally we have Jack, who is a coked up club kid. The common trait between the three of them; they are all a burden on their parents. So, the parents sell them off to a failed psychologist by the name of Normal Hail who has setup his own work camp in Fiji, promising state of the art facilities aimed at rehabilitating their children and making them behave. Too bad they didn't bother to do too many background checks; turns out the camp relies on torture and brain washing to whip the kids into shape.
Listed as a thriller, "Boot Camp" suffers from one major problem; there is absolutely nothing thrilling about this movie. That's not to say that it's a horrible film, that is to say that the movie has been mislabeled into a sub-genre that is going to bring it negative reactions from viewers expecting something more. While there are actions in the camp that do leave a bad taste in your mouth, could be seen as abusive and wrong, they are simply not setup to be thrilling. The movie plays out more like a drama throughout much of its running time with the only real thrill arriving very late in the proceedings. When it does arrive, they throw out any semblance of story building that they've spent so much time on out the window and it devolves quickly into mass chaos and an unfulfilling end.
Part of "Boot Camp's" problem is a misguided emphasis on actions and characters. Instead of finding the camp vile and feeling sympathetic towards the characters of Sophie and Ben, we are given a glimpse of a camp that doesn't appear to be all that bad and the children fighting the power are nothing but spoiled rich kids lashing out against their parents. To make myself clear; I don't support the idea of these types of rehabilitation camps at all. I find them a bit repulsive and I'm sure they have done a lot to traumatize many kids over the years. The big difference here is that this is a Hollywood view of such camps and it has been watered down too far to be effective. There are indeed at least two events I can think of that would cross the line. One of which is a rape that does not involve the actual workings of the camp. The others are bad but not much time is spent on them with no build up or sympathy to make you revile them. This may seem a bit of a nit pick but in the end, "Boot Camp" is being sold as a thriller when it is much closer to a TV Drama of the week.
The biggest fault I found with "Boot Camp" is the characterizations of the imprisoned youth. Quite simply; they didn't make me care. Instead, I found most of them insufferable and spoiled more than anything. I don't blame the actors such as Mila Kunis or Gregory Smith, I blame the parts that were written for them. Also suffering in this was the head honcho Peter Stormare. He plays a great off kilter guru who wants to do good for the wrong reasons. The part is done well but once again, the character was written less that stellar.
If you look at "Boot Camp" as a made for TV drama, it is not a bad movie. The story flows and it is easy to get engrossed in though it does grow a bit thick from time to time. As a thriller however it fails as there is very little thrill to be had until the final climax. With the structure that setup the first two acts falling to pieces as everybody bands together in one fleeting moment, the ending of the film feels weak and disappointing. Still, there are worse ways to spend your time. Just know what expect when you hit the play button.