Set in Vietnam during the late 1960s, this film by Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers, JFK) is seen by some to be seminal film on the Vietnam War. Though a fictional account it could be the story of many a soldier. The film won 4 Oscars (Best Editing, Best Director, Best Film, and Best Sound) and I don’t think that Stone has been as good since.
It’s been 20 years since the release of the film and no one else has even come close to topping it. Not only is it a great Vietnam film; it is a great film about war and the effects it has on soldiers in general. The tagline of the film was: “The first casualty of war is innocence” and this film goes a long way in demonstrating that exact idea.
Told partly through narration and partly through drama, Platoon is a film that is hard to watch at times because of its gritty realism. Stone has shot the film so it feels as if the viewer is in the middle of it. You feel the heat of the jungle, the sting of the multitude of insects and the jungle rot on your feet due to the heavy rains.
It carries a strong anti-war message coupled with some religious overtones (good vs. evil). Stone has filled his movie with what he sees as the themes of the Vietnam War. The soldiers struggle with the fact that they are not wanted there, the armed forces is largely made up of uneducated poor men and the enemy is a particularly adept one. All these coupled together and the viewer sees from the beginning that the Americans were doomed to lose this war. The war is shown to be a mistake.
There is a huge ensemble male cast (like most war films) of many veteran actors coupled with some young ones who would go on to be major stars (Forest Whitaker, Johnny Depp, Kevin Dillon, and John C. McGinley). Acting wise, the veterans, Dafoe and Berenger, turn in two stunning believable performances.
Like him or hate him (there usually is no in between with this man), you know when you watch a film by Oliver Stone he will never take the easy way out and it definitely will be thought provoking.
Private Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen – Being John Malkovich, Major League) is a middle class college student who wants to find some meaning in his life so he volunteers to be in the army and is sent off to a tour of duty of one year in Vietnam.
Taylor obviously had no idea what he would be in for. Very soon into his tour Chris is struggling with why he is there and if he is going to make it. He tries to retain his sanity by pouring his heart and soul out in letters to his grandmother.
The platoon is divided into two halves. Part of the men are devoted to Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe – The Last Temptation of Christ, Spider Man) and the other half to Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger – Training Day, Sliver). Both are good soldiers and are fighting the same enemy, but are going about it in two very different ways. This division causes plenty of tension amongst the platoon, especially considering they are under the inept command of Lieutenant Wolfe (Mark Moses – from television’s Desperate Housewives).
During a raid on a civilian town, no Viet Cong are found, but some of the soldiers, Barnes included, commit some atrocities against civilians. Taylor even finds himself at the edge of his own sanity doing things he would have never though possible. Elias cannot tolerate this type of immorality and says that he is going to file a complaint against Barnes. Taylor sides with Elias. The morale of the platoon gets lower and lower as the two leaders come closer and closer to open warfare between themselves and threaten to drag down the whole platoon with them.
-Deleted and extended scenes with director’s commentary
-Flashbacks to Platoon
-Documentaries: One War, Many Stories, Tour of the Inferno and Preparing for Nam
-Caputo and the 7th Fleet
-Dye Training Method