Platoon (1986)

Platoon (1986)
  • Time: 120 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | War
  • Director: Oliver Stone
  • Cast: Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger


Chris Taylor is a young, naive American who gives up college and volunteers for combat in Vietnam. Upon arrival, he quickly discovers that his presence is quite nonessential, and is considered insignificant to the other soldiers, as he has not fought for as long as the rest of them and felt the effects of combat. Chris has two non-commissioned officers, the ill-tempered and indestructible Staff Sergeant Robert Barnes and the more pleasant and cooperative Sergeant Elias Grodin. A line is drawn between the two NCOs and a number of men in the platoon when an illegal killing occurs during a village raid. As the war continues, Chris himself draws towards psychological meltdown. And as he struggles for survival, he soon realizes he is fighting two battles, the conflict with the enemy and the conflict between the men within his platoon.


  • Its hard to know where to start with such a breathtaking film. Oliver Stone’s Platoon is quite simply the best Vietnam war film ever made in my opinion. Everything about it is as close to perfection as we are likely to see. Charlie Sheen plays the lead, and Willem Defoe and Tom Berenger play the two sergeants that form a key part of the plot.

    Chris Taylor (Sheen) is torn between the sergeants. Barnes (Berenger) is the battle hardened, brutal murderer, who uses the war as an excuse to tender to his sadistic pleasures. Elias (Defoe) is the other side of the spectrum. We get the sense that he has wrestled with his inner demons, but he has successfully come through to the other side. He has compassion for his fellow man, and he uses drugs as a form of escapism from this brutal war. The two symbolise the struggle that Taylor must face if he is to survive out in Vietnam.

    Oliver Stone perfectly captures war. The shooting is frantic and impossible to follow. It perfectly disorientates us, just as the soldiers were. We have no idea who is being shot at, and neither do they. We follow the war at ground level, and see the brutalities first hand. Having served in Vietnam, the film is loosely based on Stone’s time out there, and Taylor loosely based on himself.

    Full Metal Jacket showcases how inhumane the war was, Apocalypse Now turns it into a story about life in general, and hopelessness, but Platoon has everything. Trying hard to avoid the old cliché, but if you only watch one war film, make sure it is this one. Nothing else can come close.

  • “I love this place at night, the stars. There’s no right or wrong in them. They’re just there.”

    When you think of the Vietnam War movie, what comes to your mind? What comes first to your mind is often an answer that has been decided by popular culture – Platoon, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1986, and directed by a decorated veteran (and survivor) of that war.

    Or it could be a personal favourite – in my case, it would be Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). The next question that will inevitably be asked: Which is the best Vietnam War movie ever made? Well, the jury is still out. But for some strange reason or so, the compass always seems to point to Oliver Stone’s film.

    Platoon is a focused film, with a strong emphasis on the experience of the dehumanizing effect of war on the foot soldier, in this instance, played by Charlie Sheen. Sheen’s character is a newbie, who volunteers to serve because his father and grandfather did so in the past in bigger wars.

    By centering on his character and his relationship with his comrades, most specifically William Dafoe’s morally-driven character, Stone dramatises as realistically as possible the conflicts that play out every day in the battlefield – clueless U.S. Marines versus the committed Vietcong, morality versus barbarism, and the clash of personal ideologies.

    Thematically, Platoon shifts from depicting the dehumanizing effects of war, somewhat a macro look at the nature of war, as evident in the infamous village attack sequence halfway into the film, to a micro look at the psychological battle Sheen’s character has to fight on his own.

    Even though Platoon is a narrative, Stone has shot his film in a mix of documentary-style realism and spectacular overhead shots. The camera always seems to be silently observing the soldiers and their interactions with the human and non-human environment. This is what makes Stone’s film feels more authentic, as compared to Kubrick’s more stylized and satirical Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Coppola’s haunting surreal trip into the heart of darkness.

    Platoon has somewhat aged a little, but it still retains the power to compel, though not as much on repeated viewings as compared to other Vietnam flicks. I will also argue against it being a masterpiece for this reason.

    Verdict: Stone’s Oscar-winning film retains its power and authenticity, but it is arguable that it still is the best Vietnam War movie ever made.

    GRADE: A- (8.5/10)

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