Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
With: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Johnny Depp, Francesco Quinn, Reggie Johnson, Mark Moses, Corey Glover, Chris Pedersen, Bob Orwig, Corkey Ford, David Neidorf, Richard Edson, Tony Todd
Written by: Oliver Stone
Directed by: Oliver Stone
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 120
Date: 12/18/1986

Platoon (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The 'Nam

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director Oliver Stone based his movie on his own experiences and attempted to make a more "realistic" Vietnam movie, simpler and more grounded than things like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter (and more ambitious than the Rambo movies), and he succeeds, truly making this war look like hell.

In 1967, wet-behind-the-ears solider Chris (Charlie Sheen) arrives, fresh-faced, in Vietnam, assigned to ground combat. He narrates his experiences in letters to his grandmother. In unrelated incidents, he faces many horrific situations, exhaustion, fear, ennui, and constant death. He meets several other soldiers, including outcasts and misfits from every walk of life back home. Most notably, he meets two sergeants, the grizzled Barnes (Tom Berenger), who believes in the war and in victory and will stop at nothing to get it, and the more kindly Elias (Willem Dafoe), who sees things a little less simply. Eventually these two inspire fighting within the ranks. Will Chris survive both the inner and outer conflicts?

Stone can't resist some of his more bombastic, operatic touches, such as the famous slow-motion death scene that was featured on the poster and in all the clips; and it's clear that Elias and Barnes represent something deeper and more timeless than mere sergeants in a specific war; they are the battle between good and evil, angels and devils. What's more some of the climactic combat footage, lit by falling flares, is sublimely beautiful, and not as horrific as it wants to be. No war movie is truly an anti-war movie, but Platoon comes close, and it's still as powerful as it was 25 years ago.

For its 25th anniversary, Fox and MGM released a special Blu-Ray and DVD combo pack. I'm not sure it was deserving of the Oscar for Best Picture, but it holds up surprisingly well; its simplicity serves it well. The new release comes with a Stone commentary track, a second track by military advisor Dale Dye, deleted and extended scenes, lots of featurettes, and trailers.

Movies Unlimtied