Platoon, directed by Oliver Stone, tells the story of Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), who left behind his education to enlist in the US army for the Vietnam War. The movie counts down the days Chris has until he is relieved of his duty in the war. During his time there, his idealism fades, he realizes the duality of man and the atrocities of war all through the traumatic events that he is forced to put through; infighting within his unit, raiding local villages etc.
I’ll keep this review short and sweet. Platoon daws a lot of comparisons with Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Both films cover the Vietnam War and were released within a year of one another. While Full Metal Jacket deals with the preparation for war, Platoon focuses its attention more towards the fatigue of war, namely how soldiers (became tired of fighting in Vietnam and began to question their own duty there as their idealism faded. For me I found Full Metal Jacket to be the superior war film. Platoon is not a bad movie, thats not what I’m trying to get at here, but it wasn’t as mesmerizing as Full Metal Jacket.
The problem with Platoon is that it’s too slow paced. Oliver Stone takes his time to build up the atmosphere for war. The whole first act is spent with Chris Taylor. He is a new recruit into the war and has second to no experience with being out on the battlefield. So he really takes his own time to get accustomed to the surrounding conditions. The rest of movie is also mostly spent from Chris’s perspective, which gave the movie a central focus.
The idea of war fatigue was explored well in this movie. The film is shot entirely in a jungle in South East Asia. This gave the movie an extra layer of realism. All of the actors also went through extreme preparation to understand the different stresses that soldiers of the time must have been going through, and this really showed. Oliver Stone also presents us with some brutal imagery and sequences that will be hard to forget. There was a particular scene in a village that I found to be the standout of this movie. It was not easy to watch, but it showcased perfectly the moral dilemmas that soldiers faced that in turn made them to some inhumane things.
Overall I would give Platoon a thumbs up. It is definitely not a bad movie because it has a central focus, explores the fatigue of war in an effective manner and is shot extremely well. My only real problem with this movie was its pace.