My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 37: Platoon (Best Picture Ranking)

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.

Platoon excels during these scenes and Oliver Stone directs them with a tight grip on the proceedings, constantly presenting more and more almost unbearable images to the audience. Unfortunately, Platoon suffers in some other parts – especially the plot. The story of the naïve, inexperienced soldier who comes to Vietnam by his own choice only to see that fighting for you country isn’t as glamorous as it usually presented is certainly a captivating approach and the character also serves as the guide through the story but very soon the differences between two Sergeants turns exactly into what Platoon had avoided so far – the clichéd ‘good vs. bad’. It’s certainly an interesting concept to show how the forces are divided by inner problems and how the tension of the war affects the soldiers but Tom Berenger’s Sergeant Barnes turns into a caricature much too soon. The other major problem of Platoon is the casting of Charlie Sheen in the central part – obviously Charlie Sheen wasn’t always the crazy lunatic he is today and he started his career as a promising new star but he still lacks too much talent to carry the story on his shoulder. His limited facial expressions, his inability to create depth in Chris beyond the written word destroy a lot of his scenes and let Platoon lose some of its effects.

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.


Louis Morgan said...

I'd say it is Stone's best film, but I am not a fan of his. I still find it has some weaknesses involving some Stone trademarks. Fortunately these are not as prevalent as many of his films, since he does leave some of the film to a little interpretation, rather than slapping your head with his views over and over again which he does in some of his other films.

Anonymous said...

I really don't like this film that much, it's probably bottom 30 for me. I think it lacks lot in the plot department and I agree that Sheen's performance was uneffective. I really dislike this kind of war film because, even though it may be a great achievement in directing and sound editing it lacks a strong central story to carry it along, that's why I prefer war films like The Bridge on the River Kwai or The Guns of Navarone, that are set on a war environment or period but they actually have a specific plan or strategy that leads the film and makes it interesting to watch, as opposed to just being "the lives of american military men fighting in Vietnam" which is certainly the case of Platoon.

Anthony said...

I really use to hate "Platoon" but after seeing it a second time, I actually really liked it but I still think that "Hannah and Her Sisters", "A Room with a View", and the snubbed "Blue Velvet", "Stand By Me", and "My Beautiful Launderette" were all better.