Archive for December 1986

Platoon

December 19, 1986

Oliver Stone became a born-again Important Movie Director with this harrowing, gut-level, grunt’s-eye view of the Vietnam War. In retrospect, it hasn’t shown the staying power of other Vietnam films like Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, or De Palma’s Casualties of War — there aren’t very many memorable moments in it, are there? — but it was the first mass-audience film to take you into the situation, up close and personal. Viewed in the context of its release — smack dab in the middle of the jingoistic Reagan years, the year after Rambo, and catching the wave of ’60s boomer nostalgia — it was indeed a force to be reckoned with. There was no logical reason for it to have been so popular with audiences or to have won the Best Picture Oscar, but somehow it did. Part of that may be credited to the ways in which Stone mainstreams his story; the intrusive, earnest narration by our wide-eyed young hero, Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), is the sort of bland white noise you may want to tune out. In terms of the day-to-day madness of combat, Stone’s vision is horrifyingly realistic, the reportage of someone who was there; we find out more about what the soldiers went through over there than we ever wanted to know. The facile good-evil dichotomy as represented by crazy warrior Tom Berenger and saintly pothead Willem Dafoe is clumsy and unfortunate, but that can be overlooked, as can Sheen’s generally inexpressive performance. The mostly doomed cast includes Forest Whitaker, Richard Edson, Kevin Dillon, Keith David, John C. McGinley, and Johnny Depp. About twenty years after the film’s release, there was, ridiculously, a line of Platoon action figures.

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