When Oliver Stone released Platoon, his semi-autobiographical take on the Vietnam War, in 1986, few films prior had tackled the subject in quite the same way. The two most famous, 1978’s Deer Hunter focused more the psychological aftermath that war left on a small group of friends and 1979’s Apocalypse Now focused on one specific mission to take out a rogue colonel. The early ’80s gave us action movies like Missing In Action which, while fun, failed to deliver any truth or have any psychological resonance.
Though Hunter and Apocalypse were both very psychological films, no film had really taken a deep look at what it was like for our troops over there during that time.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Charlie Sheen plays Chris Taylor, a young American who dropped out of college to do his duty like his father and grandfather before him. His first day with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, is far from pleasant, as he sees piles of body bags being loaded onto the plane that dropped him off. Taylor is instantly faced with the horrors of the war and soon his enthusiasm falters.
The only thing keeping him going is the few friends me makes in his Division which is lead by Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe) who radiates with strength. On other side of the coin is Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), a war hardened bastard who sees only the darkness in everything. It is clear from the beginning that Elias and Barnes see eye to eye on nothing.
This friction comes to a head when the group searches a small Vietnamese village for hidden Viet Cong after the death of one of their men. Tempers are high and Barnes kills an old woman in cold blood. The drama builds from there, as the conflict between soldiers seems almost more deadly than that of the Viet Cong.
Stone tells a grisly story that sucks you, smacks you around and finally only lets you go once the credits have rolled. The acting across the board is fantastic. Sheen has all but destroyed his reputation as of late, but watching him here you easily remember what a great actor he used to be. Also seen on screen are John C. McGinley as Sgt O’Neill, Forest Whitaker, Mark Moses, a plethora of “that guys” including Kevin Dillon, Keith David, Richard Edson and Tony Todd, Corey Glover (lead singer of Living Colour) and even a small role from a very young Johnny Depp.
Every one of these men delivers memorable and realistic performances all which help add to the believe ability of the atrocities on screen. Coming from such a personal place, Stone delivers easily the best script he’s ever written and the film is shot impeccably by Robert Richardson. It is a dark, gritty and realistic film that never goes too far over the top and when it gets close (like Elias running out of the jungle with a whole swarm of Viet Cong on his tale) it is for wonderful dramatic effect and handled beautifully.
Platoon might not be the easiest film to watch, few films of its kind are, but there is a reason this film won four Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Sound and Film Editing. I love Michael Caine, but it’s a crime that both Berenger and Dafoe lost to him for Supporting Actor. Even if you’re not a big fan of war films, you really owe it to yourself to see this.
This film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish, French and several others with 27 different language subtitles. You even get subtitles for the commentary in a couple different languages. This Blu-ray transfer is superb. It cleans it up wonderfully while still keeping it dark and gritty. The sound is fantastic as well; I didn’t get distracted having to adjust the volume between quite and loud moments.
Audio Commentary: You get two of these. One with Oliver Stone, the other with Military Adviser Dale Dye. These are okay commentaries. Interesting, but not too exciting.
Deleted and Extended Scenes: (11 min.) These have optional Stone commentary as well. These are mostly pretty good, there is a great scene with Johnny Depp in here. And Stone’s commentary is very thoughtful.
Flashback to Platoon: (48 min.) This has three parts, Snapshot in Time: 1967-1968, ‘Nam and Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon. These are all really great documentaries, focusing on the war itself in a historical look, then a look at the making of the film.
Documentaries: (31 min.) There are two here. In One War, Many Stories (25 min.) Oliver Stone and other Vets discuss their time in ‘Nam. This is some really intense stuff. Watching a tough guy breakdown and cry while sharing a war story really gets to you. In Preparing for ‘Nam (6 min.) Stone and some other Vets discuss basic training.
Vignettes: (6 min.) Three shorts here: Caputo & The 7th Fleet, Dye Training Method and Gordon Gekko these give other insights into the war. And an odd bit about how Oliver Stone came up with the name Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.
Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots:
Platoon is often lauded as one of the best war films ever made and there is a reason for it. There really hadn’t been a war film like this prior. With a hard hitting story, fantastic performances and a well written personal script from Stone, this is a film that will never tarnish with age.
MGM presents Platoon. Written and directed by: Oliver Stone. Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker and Johnny Depp. Running time: 120 min. Rating: R. Originally released in 1986. Released on DVD: May 24, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: charlie sheen, Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Johnny Depp, Kevin Dillon, Oliver Stone, Tony Todd, Willem Dafoe