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#83 - Platoon

Oliver Stone's 1986 film focuses on a platoon of soldiers in Vietnam -- chiefly a young recruit (Charlie Sheen) and his two sergeants, Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Elias (Willem Dafoe), who approach the war in very different ways. You can probably guess what else happens in the film.

Platoon fits in perfectly with the other morally ambiguous and non-entertaining films we've seen so far for this project (see Easy Rider, Goodfellas, Unforgiven). Non sympathetic main characters? Check. Senseless violence? Check. Samantha and Andrew didn't enjoy it? Check.

I'm trying to step back and see the film for what makes it great, besides chronicling one of the greatest American tragedies of the 20th century (which, near as I can tell, is criteria enough). I think part of why the movie is lauded is how it takes the setting and uses it to speak to a greater theme. War is hell, as they say, and it brings out the best and the worst in people. How one deals with that tells you a lot about their character.

Sheen's character tries desperately to hold to his naive conceptions about what his role should be. The difference between the two sergeants is stark and their inevitable conflict leads to tragedy in and of itself. Some find humor amidst the hellish situation. Additionally, the film does an excellent job of portraying the realism of war -- the confusion, the tension, the little nitty gritty details that separate "a rough time" with "absolute horror."

I'm not sure I needed to see this to know that Vietnam was awful. But now I have a better idea. And if this wasn't enough (it was, it was, please...), we get two more rounds soon. Ugh. I wonder if there will be as many films about Iraq.

(See this post if you're confused why I'm reviewing movies.)

Comments (1)


Platoon was VERY difficult for me to watch. I enjoy Apocalypse Now much more (mainly because it is Heart of Darkness 'Nam style, seems a bit less "real", and I could predict occurances of violence and blood and guts). I can't even imagine experiencing that war first hand... no wonder so many people came home crazy.

Hope all is well out west!


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