Movie Review #683
Hemdale Film presents…
Distributor: Orion Pictures Corporation
Country: UK — USA
Spoken Languages: English — Vietnamese
Directed by Oliver Stone. Produced by Arnold Kopelson. Written by Oliver Stone.
Rated R by the MPAA — war violence, frequent profanity. Runs 2 hours. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on December 19, 1986. Wide release in the USA on February 6, 1987; and in the UK on April 24, 1987.
Narrated by Charlie Sheen. Starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Charlie Sheen. Also starring Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Francesco Quinn, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Reggie Johnson, Mark Moses, Corey Glover, Johnny Depp, Chris Pedersen, Bob Orwig, Corkey Ford, and David Neidorf.
“Rejoice O young man in thy youth…”
“Platoon” is Oliver Stone’s retelling of war. I don’t mean retelling as in what Francis Coppola and Stanley Kubrick offered in their renditions. This is a movie concerned so much about its story that the style is a mere sub-operation to substance. Stone was an actual veteran of the Vietnam War. He was also the first of several filmmaking veterans to make a movie about the horrors he encountered. I have to say that, while I do respect “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket” for their perfect dehumanizations of the Vietnam War, “Platoon” comes out on top. It’s not a movie about what happened in the Vietnam War. It’s about how one man’s reality was changed (maybe even rectified) by war.
And the movie is effective. It takes full ownership of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”. The piece is played seemingly throughout the film in multiple variations. It builds poignancy in the story. Maybe this is a good 5% of why “Platoon” functions strictly as a drama and a reality-centric horror movie. It’s not an action movie, and it anything but desires to bloat the struggles into a triumphant epic. It doesn’t even wish to entertain, I don’t believe. It’s one focus is to explicate a perilous vision of what being in the war is like.
The narration comes in letters written home from the protagonist. That’s what brings out the film’s terrific (and terrifying) authenticity. Rarely will the movie convince us that it’s indeed a movie. It’s presentation is visceral. Beautiful contrast is suggested between this storytelling method and the actual imagery. What we are told is visceral. What we see is extremely mild for a war movie.
Charlie Sheen both portrays the protagonist and narrates the film. His delivery crafts the movie for war what “The Shawshank Redemption” was for prison life. Sheen has never played such a character since. Even his performance in Oliver Stone’s followup “Wall Street” doesn’t ask for our sympathy at all costs. This is a man who dropped out of college to voluntarily serve in the infantry. Not one soldier seems to befriend him, or each other, and enemies could be anywhere and everywhere. Just knowing that much, and how seriously it’s taken, makes did quite a horrifying movie–maybe the most horrifying I’ve ever seen. Though by the end, it’s more than just one level of emotion that’s getting whipped.