Directed by Oliver Stone
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 4
In case you were wondering, this is my 85th Best Picture review! Aka, I only have one more to watch after this! How exciting is that? Anyway, I'm not exactly sure why Platoon got left this long. It just got lost in the shuffle of war films that have won and I've tried to space them out as best I can. However, here we go with my 2nd last BP review!
Chris Taylor has given up college and volunteered to fight in Vietnam. However, upon arrival, war isn't quite what he expected it to be. He's pretty much non-essential and inexperienced, meaning the others within his platoon tend to look down on him because he doesn't know how things work and hasn't felt the effects of the war like they have. Two of Chris's non-commissioned officers take opposite sides against each other after an illegal killing in a village raid. The men within the platoon seem to take sides and soon they are almost all-out fighting each other and Chris finds himself struggling against what's right and what's wrong and for his own survival.
Platoon reminded me of The Hurt Locker in several ways. The layout of the film is quite similar. We have a new officer who doesn't quite fit in with the pre-existing platoon, and it's just about experiences that happen to them and the psychosis behind it. Both are very much about the psychology of the soldiers in the war.
I didn't really feel one way or the other about Platoon. Oliver Stone himself is a vet from Vietnam and used a lot of personal experiences to make the film. The film did feel authentic and I did enjoy the anti-war message. It was quite stronger (stronger than The Hurt Locker had). It's strengths lied in it's realness behind the people. No one ever really felt fake, and while maybe some of the characters had been exaggerated a little bit for film, they still felt like the kind of people you would find in the army.
However, while I know this was realistic (most likely), it got very tiring watching a film about misogynistic and macho manly men in the army. A lot of weed smoking, beer drinking, chest pounding, sex jokes, and the like. The film made a point of showing that it was often the "bottom of society" who ended up in the war, and I suppose this type of personality would fit the stereotype, but it got very tiring to watch. I know Stone made a point of showing the flip side, that when it came down to it, it was a bit of a mask or a shield and in the end they were all broken. But it was still quite tiring to hear their jokes and watch them think so highly of themselves. I understand the point, but it was still not overly enjoyable.
The film did have very strong messages. And they were only shoved in your face a little bit, as opposed to a lot, which I did appreciate. The voice-over narrative given by Charlie Sheen that are posed as letters to his grandmothers are a little hokey, but do provide insight to the film that it doesn't visually show, or if it does, it doesn't really explain. And while again, we aren't seeing the side of the war from any Vietnamese people, I was happy that characters did try to cry out that "they're people too!" I know I've mentioned I know virtually nothing about the Vietnam war (though this film was a tweak more informative than the Deer Hunter, but that's not saying much really). However, the war to me seems very frustrating and stands for everything I hate about war (yep, I'm a pacifist). But I felt we had a good balance of characters. We had the bad kinds, who did illegal killings and beat up random Vietnamese people with no good reason, and we had the other characters who tried to put a stop to it. The characters trying to put a stop to it never felt overly preachy or do-good, they were balanced out by their misogyny. The head to head of Tom Berenger (as Sgt. Barnes) and Willem Dafoe (as Sgt. Elias Grodin), the bad vs good, is where the film did some great work. Dafoe was a kinder and more cooperative NCO, but still tough and someone to listen to. Berenger, on the other hand, was ill-tempered and intolerant. Both were fantastic in their portrayals, especially Dafoe, who was quite tragic in the end.
I know this review is rather rambling, but I'm just not sure what I made of it. I did enjoy what it had to say, but it was so heavy-handed and kept most of it's characters at a distance that it was sort of hard to really connect with them. Conversely, the Hurt Locker got us into the main 3 characters heads quite indepthly which was one of the strengths of that film, and also would've work wonders here. However, this was not the case. I think being held at a bit of a distance from the characters I'm supposed to care about and I'm watching so much about is minorly frustrating. Platoon was on the verge of being really great, but I felt it was also just a few steps back from that point.
Emotional Connection- 7/10
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10
Overall Package- 8/10