This searing autobiographical drama chronicles the Vietnam experiences of naive volunteer soldier Chris Taylor, whose view of the conflict starts to change after witnessing murder and rape at the hands of his compatriots.
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A brillant movie, timeless in its execution. Most veterans, with whom I've spoke, indicated that Platoon was the closest to how things actually were over there. For the history buff, this would give you a fairly accurate glimpse into the Vietnam war through a cinematic perspective. Speaking of cinema, the intensity and wear on the actor's faces were real as they were put through an extensive boot camp before shooting even started, and most of them were both exhausted and worn out throughout most of the filming. Stone wanted to create a sense of reality and his accomplished his goal in spades. The big scenes that moved the story were robust, touching and in some cases overwhelming. Perhaps, though, the little scenes, like a young Johnny Depp character dying was agonizing and you almost felt you were dying with him. The amazing Forest Whitaker's screams as his character is assaulted by a land mine was sickening. Throughout all of this though, we're reminded again that before sex, drugs and rock and roll, Charlie Sheen was an incredibly talented actor. I felt the ant stings on his neck, the pain in his voice, the hopelessness in his tone and physical demeanor throughout the movie. He knew how to step it up and pull back the ethos during the course of the movie and, I think, had an understanding, perhaps somewhat gained from growing up in a talented cinematic family, of what was going on in a movie at any given time, from the scene to the specifics of his character, even though shooting never occurs linearly. Anyway, sit down, watch this movie. You'll be affected and will come away a better human being for it. Enjoy.
Reviewed in the United States on February 13, 2013
When I saw Platoon the first time I had trouble staying still. It seemed every five minutes, or so something on the screen would remind me of Nam. Finally, the last part of the movie , where they were overrun, I had to leave. My body was re-acting to the night, to the LP getting killed and the words of Vietnamese the North Vietnamese were yelling became too much. I started flashing back, because we had been overrun during TET68. My girlfriend stayed with me and at last got me calmed down( along with the Lorazepam my psychiatrist gave me) and we left. It wasn't until the third time I watched it that I could sit all the way through, still wasn't easy. When you're overrun, just like the movie, you're filled with( what I called) Bloodlust! You are killing everything that doesn't look like an American. I don't have a lot of memories about it except for snippets of individual actions I was in. It's mass confusion and, like the movie, when the commanding officer expected that his company was losing, he called in what's called " Broken Arrow", which means an American unit is being wiped out and needs all possible assistance and the Air Force responded. The CO called them down right on top of his unit. If you'll check your history, we didn't surrender in Vietnam. We didn't talk about it, it was understood that we would all go down fighting to the last man. We didn't give quarter, nor did we ask for it. We always went to the knife in our fights, you kill me or I'll kill you. In our case, our CO called in artillery on our position to kill the enemy that was killing all of us. There's always survivors of this, where if we just kept fighting, all would die. Platoon was the closest I'd seen to action like it was. Just as an aside, we were overrun on Hwy 13( Thunder Road) close to Cambodia and that part of the Ho Chi Minh trail. Oliver Stone had been there and he got it right on the fighting.
I don't know how normal it is for a woman who wears bows on her shoes to have watched a movie as many times as I have Platoon, but since its premier it has remained one of my favorites.
Setting aside all real life moral and political considerations, and perhaps the veracity of minor details, I find none of the other artistic forays into the Vietnam War as realistic or forceful as Platoon, since unlike the other filmmakers, director Oliver Stone actually served in the war [with distinction ]from 1967-68 with the 25th infantry and then with the First Cavalry. The other reviewers have summarized the plot well, so I'll just add some observations.
The first time I saw it, I was blown away by the visceral impact of the action—not only in the battle sequences, but in terms of actually being incountry. Suffering from lack of sleep, eating crap rations, marching while humping heavy loads in the heat, humidity, rains; dealing with insects and snakes- compounded by the frustration of always being so close to an unseen enemy but often unable to engage him are simply mind boggling. Then of course there was the fear: of the unknown, of booby traps, collateral fire, villagers who may have been innocents or sympathizers—and the terror of being wounded or killed.
The attention to detail, despite some criticism from other reviewers is remarkable. Is all here: the forest, the village and its people, guys jerking off in full view, misdirected friendly fire, the underground tunnels of the Viet Cong, and in one stunning sequence, as the men get ready to walk out into the field at dusk after they get the order to lock and load, a black man raising his voice in an almost spiritual rendition of O Susanna. There are also self inflicted wounds, racism, cruelty, a lieutenant who is unable to lead, ideological schisms about how to win the war or even if the war is worth fighting, along with malice and murder.
What impressed me, and it is rare in American cinema, was to finally see black men portrayed as regular people -not comic relief, kindly helpers, martyrs, victims, criminals or elegant supermen ala Sidney Poitier. The characterizations are stunning in their ordinariness: fast talking black power supporter Junior, young and frightened Francis, bodybuilding party guy Manny, sweet talking Big Hal, heroin addicted Warren, ready to turn a blind eye to moral issues just to survive, – and for me always at the heart of the movie-the wonderful Keith David as the uneducated but incredibly wise and generous King, who, delineating the chasm between black and white, rich and poor, tells the narrator, 'Who ever said we counted for anything? All you have to do is get out of here alive, and the rest of your life will be gravy.'
The white guys are no less wonderfully drawn: pragmatic Rhah, brown nosing O'Neill, easy going surfer Crawford, psychotic Bunny, the completely inept Lieutenant Wolfe, the translator, Lerner, the kindly medic who is appalled by violence, and the young man who narrates the story, Chris, a college kid from a well-to -do family who has volunteered for duty. But make no mistake-these aren't types like we saw in most WWII Hollywood fare—but multifaceted and surprising human beings.
In a sense the story revolves around Chris [ Charlie Sheen] and the two pivotal characters who will influence and define his maturity: the humane, thoughtful and individualistic Sergeant Elias [ Willem Dafoe] and Sergeant Barnes [ Tom Berenger], the brutal realist who effectively runs the platoon and knows what it takes to keep the men alive and functioning as a unit. In the course of the story, Chris will choose his side, though he will also for better or worse incorporate the characteristics of both men.
Berenger and Dafoe give outstanding performances as does Keith David—and I think the then young Charlie Sheen was a wonderful choice for Chris. Not only does he look like a stand in for Oliver Stone but the casting nods to his father, Martin Sheen, who was the lead in Apocalypse Now. And if you are impressed at all with Dafoe, watch Stone's Born on the 4th of July where Dafoe gives one of his greatest performances as the embittered and disabled veteran, Charlie from Chicago.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 15, 2020
Platoon is a 1986 American war film written and directed by Oliver Stone, starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen, Keith David, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Forest Whitaker, and Johnny Depp. It is the first film of a trilogy of Vietnam War films directed by Stone, followed by Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Heaven & Earth (1993). The film, based on Stone's experience from the war, follows a U.S. Army volunteer (Sheen) fighting in the war while his two sergeants (Berenger and Dafoe) argue over the leadership of the platoon.
Stone wrote the screenplay based upon his experiences as a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam, to counter the vision of the war portrayed in John Wayne's The Green Berets. Although having written films such as Midnight Express and Scarface, Stone struggled to get the film developed until Hemdale Film Corporation acquired the project along with Salvador. Filming took place in the Philippines in February 1986 and lasted 54 days. Platoon was the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War.
Upon its release, Platoon received critical acclaim for Stone's directing and screenplay, the performances, cinematography, battle sequences and realism. The film was a box office success upon its release, grossing $138.5 million domestically against its $6 million budget. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards at the 59th Academy Awards and won four including Best Picture, Best Director for Stone, Best Sound and Best Film Editing. In 1998, the American Film Institute placed Platoon at #83 in their "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Movies" poll. In 2019, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
One of my favourite war movies and must watch for any war movie fan.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 4, 2016
War is hell they say, the film certainly seems to agree.
Charlie Sheen stars as our main protagonist a young man who finds himself completely out of his depth in the jungles of Vietnam. His company quickly fragments into two hostile camps as the stress of war begins to take it's tool on the men. The environment they find themselves in is one whether moral thresholds are crossed, there is little accountability and attitudes towards death become casual and uncaring.
Charlie Sheen does a fine job in his role though I'd say that William Defoe steals the show with his performance. The film is brutual in it's realism, limbs are blown off, soliders bleed to death and even the elements conspire against our team with constant rain and mosquitoes at war with them.
The tone is dark and meancing, danger lurks not just outside the group but within, it's the kind of situation where everybody needs someone to watch their back. The film score is made of up tragic harrowing music. If the director does not have sympathy with the war objectives then you can see that he does at least with the men brought in to fight the war. The day and night-time scenes are well lit for a murky jungle and the cast really throw themselves physically into the role.
There's lots of character development for Sheen's character, his a raw idealistic youth confronted with the shock of real combat and savage soldiers out of control. The pacing of the film never lets up and I was surprised this was made for just $6 million, even the non combat scenes are full of conflict. I don't think you can really improve on this film as one of the greatest in the war genera.
The Blu Ray also offers superb picture and sound quality.
2.0 out of 5 starsImproved picture but disappointing English soundtrack
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 17, 2020
I have owned this film in dvd for years so thought I’d purchase the Blu-ray as an upgrade. Remembering this is a film from the 80’s it was never going to be HD quality but they have done a good job in improving the picture quality overall. The soundtrack has been improved but it is also where things suddenly fall flat. Neither the DTS-HD or 4.0 surround English tracks have any surround, the rear speakers are just silent, even when I try to force surround rather than playing the original source. All the other language tracks both DTS and surround on the disc provide surround sound. Very disappointing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 23, 2016
Anti-war movies are odd. They seem to ultimately war look like a heroic, glorious adventure. Not here. We see the Vietnam war from the ground, as Charlie Sheen lands he is greeted by the sight of body bags. His potential fate is served up there and then. The characters we are introduced to seem to be weary from long marches, lost to drugs or trying to distance themselves from the Hell they have been sent to. The enemy are barely seen, they merge in and out of the undergrowth and disappear into village populations. This is one of the best anti war movies made.
Good transfer to Blu-Ray for this version. It's not perfect, but given that it was filmed in the 80's it's not too shabby quality-wise, unlike quite a few BR's of older movies that i've purchased recently.
You can still take Charlie Sheen seriously in this movie, it's grown-up stuff & a great war film, But Berenger & Dafoe steal it.