Platoon is Oliver Stone’s gripping and devastating look at the war in Vietnam. It combines all the ‘classical’ elements of an anti-war movie – brutality, inhumanity and meaningless deaths. As the title character says, hell is the impossibility of reason – and there is certainly no reason in war. It’s not the old ‘us vs. them’ that is slowly destroying the spirit of the men but also the differences that arise between themselves. This way, Oliver Stone effectively showed that the times of ‘good vs. evil’ are over and that this impossibility of reason slowly affects everybody.
As a movie, Platoon mostly benefits from the images it presents and the themes it touches. The almost never-ending battle sequences at the end, the almost heart-stopping scene when the enemy soldiers are becoming visible in the dark or the upsetting moments when the American soldiers raid the village – Oliver Stone couldn’t have found a better way to portray the inhumanity of war and how there are no winners in a fight like this.
Still, Platoon is a movie that shows the horror of war very believably without ever trying to find a softening angle. Especially the scenes in the village are a shocking presentation of how almost every human being can be turned into a bestial monster – killing people for fun, trying to rape little girls, destroying houses and acres is something that most of these men would never do under normal circumstances but Oliver Stone shows how everything seems possible in the face of war without ever trying to make these actions excusable. Oliver Stone mostly presents a straight-forward story and leaves it up to the viewers to decide for themselves what they are seeing and how it affects them.
Overall, Platoon is a very strong and haunting look at the terrors of war – so strong that it even overshadows some major problems regarding the plot and the acting.