‘Platoon’ is Oliver Stone’s ultimate Vietnam film which focuses on a platoon of American soldiers as they fight together in the Vietnamese wilderness.
The main character is Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) who is a volunteer and an inexperienced fighter and not as indispensable as he believed he would be. We meet the other members of the platoon and see them go through training and fighting together. The platoon is split in two when a violent killing takes place during a raid on a village. The film then looks at the two conflicts: the conflict within the platoon and the conflict of the war.
‘Platoon’ is undoubtedly one of the great war films. The acting is solid throughout, with a surprisingly good performance from Sheen and great performances from the two commanders Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Elias (Willem Dafoe) whose rivalry really does elevate this film to higher levels.
The film is shot beautifully: there are some shocking and moving moments of the film, and the film really does show the panic that it intends to portray. It’s also a balanced film in that it’s clearly anti-war, but refrains from becoming either anti-American or anti-Vietnamese, and the film deserves credit for that. The use of the two confrontations really helps to do this, and I think that it was a great decision to introduce this internal conflict into the film.
The film is not without its faults and suffers at time from a common war film flaw in that it tries to put too many events into a short time period. Whereas I do not doubt that these events did take place in Vietnam, it is highly unlikely that they would have taken place to one group of people within a time frame of a few weeks.
Whereas the cinematography of the war scenes is stunning and illustrates the general confusion of war, at times this scenes do drag as once the idea of confusion has passed it can turn into a series of loud bangs and flashing lights, and I personally felt my attention waning at some of these points.
Platoon is a war film that everyone should watch. It is a cleverly constructed film which gives an interesting insight into life in Vietnam. It’s not perfect: there are parts where the expression style over substance can be applied, but on the whole it is a strong film with many good qualities. Incidentally, my winner would have been ‘A Room with a View’, in my opinion one of the greatest films of the 1980s.