A soldier in his first year in Vietnam is forced to witness and
commit atrocious acts of war in the name of American victory.
Written and Directed by Oliver Stone
Starring Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe,
John C. McGinley, Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Francesco Quinn, Kevin Dillon, Johnny Depp, Reggie Johnson, Mark Moses
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound,
Best Film Editing
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Tom Berenger),
Best Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography
War is hell. That's a statement I'm sure most of us are familiar with, and most war films tend to lean in that direction. But war films, especially in America, also tend to glorify America as the incorruptible good guy saving freedom all around the world, from Japan to Vietnam to Afghanistan and so on. Personally, I consider this to be pure propaganda, even if the films is good. That's why I admire Oliver Stone and his work with Platoon, a film that condemns the Vietnam War as one giant war crime and highlights the irredeemable actions of some American soldiers. Not all of them. That's very important. And I am more inclined to believe Stone's approach since he was actually there, in the shit, as they would often say.
In this harrowing, intense film, we follow Chris Taylor (Sheen), a rich kid who volunteered for service in Vietnam. He's smooth around the edges and his platoon doesn't respect him because he just showed up in Nam. His platoon's commanding officers, Sgt. Elias (Dafoe) and Sgt. Barnes (Berenger) have wildly different approaches to the war. Basically, Elias is a good man and Barnes is a murdering lunatic. Taylor finds himself caught between these two men's ideologies, and it tears him apart. Through the lenses of these characters, we see the darkness in war. The film had a brilliant tagline: "The first casualty of war is innocence." Stone makes that abundantly clear throughout, and by the film's end, there are no more innocents to be found.
Platoon is largely considered to be Oliver Stone's masterpiece. While personally, I have more of an affinity for JFK or Born on the Fourth of July, I totally get it. This is a film that, for many film fans, personifies the Vietnam War through a pop culture lens. It's one of the few Best Picture winners that was also an enormous hit among movie fans, from its' box office success to its permanent place in modern popular culture. It holds up and it's a must-see.