“I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. And the enemy… was in us.” Platoon which was released in 1986 and directed by Oliver Stone, portrays the harrowing reality of the Vietnam war. Prior to watching this, I was impressed with the casting and eager to see how the actors portrayed their film characters.
The film opens on Private First-Class Chris Taylor, a US Army volunteer portrayed by Charlie Sheen. Upon arriving near the Cambodian border, he is dispatched with the rest of his division to a planned night ambush. As expected, things don’t go according to plan. The North Vietnamese army ambushes the U.S. Forces during the night. Platoon then captures the downward spiral of events and the horrors of war. What sets Platoon apart from similar films of the time is the perspective that it portrays the United States in a negative light. Stone a Vietnam veteran himself called upon his experiences while serving in the military.
One element that I enjoyed were the two opposing views of the war held by Sgt. Barnes and Sgt. Elias portrayed by Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe respectively. Barnes who is a by the books authority character is quite the contrast from Elias a pot-smoking hippy who has a compassionate side. To see how their relationship deteriorates because of one specific event was very surprising. Another strong point is to see how Sheen’s character evolves during his time in the army. He forms relationships with members of his platoon. Seeing how Chris Taylor reacts to the insurmountable loss of life and the terrible events that transpired is heartbreaking
You can’t mention Platoon without spending a moment talking about the incredible score composed by Georges Delerue. With other films about the war featuring music like Hendrix, CCR, and other what I would consider stereotypical Vietnam anthems, Delerue uses incredible restraint by only using one licensed song which is a Jefferson Airplane song. However, the main theme throughout the movie Adagio for strings maybe the most heartbreaking song I’ve ever heard.
I’m not sure if It would be possible to recommend Platoon more. It certainly isn’t for everyone as it features sensitive and disturbing situations, but I think it’s one that shouldn’t be missed.