Platoon (1986)

Platoon (1986)

Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe

A new arrival to Vietnam struggles with the horrors of war and a moral dilemma when members of his unit commit war crimes.

I find myself rather conflicted on this movie. Politically, I'm opposed to Oliver Stone and I know that he isn't always an honest broker when it comes to delivering a narrative tailored to his prejudices. However, both he and technical advisor Dale Dye were actually there and I certainly can't criticize the accuracy of the portrayal of the Vietnam War in the film from any firsthand knowledge. It was a different generation of the Army and there's no doubt a greater share of reality than I'd like to admit. Let's just set that aspect aside and look at the movie strictly as a movie to strip away some of that complication for the sake of this review.

It is certainly a striking movie, perhaps one of the great depictions that gives you a visceral sense of how war truly is Hell. There are a lot of familiar faces in the unit and this movie helped make a lot of careers. Charlie Sheen is pretty good as the fresh-faced Chris Taylor and Willem Dafoe is interesting as the pseudo-messianic Elias (amusingly foreshadowing his role in The Last Temptation of the Christ), but the most striking performance goes to Tom Berenger as SSG Barnes. Naturally, I'm always glad to see Keith David on the screen, but I also want to tip my hat to Dale Dye as Captain Harris.

In many ways, this can be a hard movie to watch. It'll likely rub on your biases whichever side of the fence you sit on, but I think it should be seen regardless or perhaps specifically because of that. I can set politics aside and admit that it's earned its acclaim, though as a slightly immature jab, I will say that the voiceover is a touch on the pretentious side. Give this one a watch.

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