Newest Review: ... role in the film and being a fan of all things Johnny I found myself buying the DVD. In general, I am not really into war films but part ... more
War - what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!
Member Name: Praskipark
Date: 13/08/12, updated on 13/08/12 (71 review reads)
Advantages: A realistic Vietnam War Film. Great soundtrack and acting by all members of the cast.
Disadvantages: Narration is a bit cheesy at times
Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is a middle class American kid who goes off to fight in the Vietnam War. He's very patriotic and believes he should do his bit for the cause and his country. Once he arrives in Vietnam he soon realises the futility of war and struggles to survive the rigours of jungle life. He's also pulled between two men, both sergeants. Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger) is the tough nut, hardened by battle, a brutal killer who uses the war as an excuse to carry out his sadistic ways. Sergeant Elias Grodin (William Dafoe) is a bit of a soft touch, a godly figure who has already cast aside his demons and wants to save the souls of his fellow soldiers. The drugs he takes are to keep away the hideous images of this brutal war.
Stone certainly captures the brutality and disorientation of war in Platoon. We are able to follow this cruelty at ground level. We see how nightmarish it is to spend day after day in blazing heat where there never seems to be any let up. The natural environment is tough, can send men insane. We also see how the poor and uneducated grunts (another name for Infantrymen in the Vietnam War) don't have a sense of purpose, how everything can easily fall apart. Unless you have been in a war like Vietnam or any war really, it is difficult to imagine the sheer mental and physical exhaustion that these soldiers suffered from. No wonder their morale was low.
The reason I chose to watch Platoon was because Johnny Depp has a small role in the film and being a fan of all things Johnny I found myself buying the DVD. In general, I am not really into war films but part of me is glad I watched Oliver Stone's Platoon; I think he has done a great job. Based on his own experience in Vietnam, his firsthand knowledge and memories have enabled him to convey the horrors of war in a frantic, disorientating way; he has created a great antiwar film. He hasn't left anything out and certainly hasn't coated the film in sugar.
I didn't find Platoon an easy film to watch at all. Sometimes I found it impossible to follow as it seemed too frantic. Some scenes are horrific especially the one in the village. I found myself covering my face with my hands when this came on the screen. Charlie Sheen as Chris Taylor is very good; he is solid in this role. I believed in his innocence at the beginning and how he had it taken away from him and became more corrupt as time passed. Barnes was very convincing as the twisted, brutal sergeant and Dafoe really shone as the good guy. Perhaps showing the contrast between a good guy and a bad guy is a little clichéd but I think it worked in the film.
There are many battle scenes in the film, some are exhausting and I found myself drained from watching so many horrific scenes. Stone certainly doesn't glorify war in this film. I also found the way he focused on the interactive side of war, showing soldiers submerged in battles with the enemy was realistic.
I thought the acting ability of all the cast was very good. I was able to get inside their heads, understand their fears, dreams and see their visions. Even the members of the supporting cast were believable. Although Johnny is a newcomer in this movie I could see he had great potential and one day was going to become a star. I really believed he was Private Gator Lerner, the unfortunate translator who could speak a little Vietnamese. As for Charlie Sheen's narration I enjoyed it for a short time but then it began to get on my nerves. I thought it was far too verbose and insincere.
The sounds involved on the soundtrack are superb and well chosen; 'Tracks of my Tears' by Smokey Robinson, 'Respect' Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding and then there's Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, a beautiful, haunting piece of music that leaves me in tears.
The film runs for 120 minutes and was shot on location in Luzon, Philippines. I have never been there but I can imagine it must have been hell living in the holes in the ground when they were shooting manoeuvres. I read in one of my Depp biographies that Stone made each member of the cast take part in field training and he hired an ex- Vietnam veteran to get them physically in good shape.
Platoon has been given a 15 rating certificate. As this is a war film there are many graphic scenes of war and torture. The images are disturbing especially the violence that is carried out in the village scene and the language is quite strong. The 'F' word is used frequently and some of the language is of a sexual content.
I first came across Oliver Stone when I went to see Midnight Express at the cinema in 1987, he wrote the screenplay. I remember that film very well, it freaked me out completely. He's always been controversial in the way he deals with political and social issues. His take on things are usually uncompromising. The way he shows the realities of war and how it takes away the innocence of young men will leave you numb. It is an excellent film and I am not surprised it walked away with 4 Academy Awards in 1987.
There are a string of extras with this DVD. Some I have viewed and a couple I haven't yet looked at. I am not a great fan of extras. There are two commentaries, one with Stone and the other with military adviser, Dale Dye. The one with Stone talking about his experience as an Infantryman in the Vietnam War is fairly interesting although I did find his ramblings a bit too dry. The military commentary I didn't watch but I should think it will be interesting if you like military stuff. The deleted and extended scenes I did watch because there is one of Depp talking and other soldiers having conversations. It appears that a lot of Depp's scenes were actually cut from the film in the end. Other extras include 'Snapshot in Time', a discussion about the history of the Vietnam War and 'Creating the Nam,' a short film discussing the making and shooting of the film on location in the Phillipines.
A brilliant film.
Summary: Oliver Stone and Charlie Sheen at their best