MOVIE: ****1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAYEXPERIENCE: ****1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Oliver Stone came on strong in the 80s with this powerful, gritty and then-unique look at the war in Vietnam. Charlie Sheen stars as a young college-bound man who quits school to join the fight in Vietnam. However, up on reaching the country, he discovers a confusing and dangerous world. Soon, he finds himself in the middle of a battle between two sergeants… one who wants to maintain control by any means necessary and the other that wants to maintain control of the soldiers’ humanity.
WHAT I LIKED
I am too young to remember anything contemporary about the Vietnam War. While the conflict happened during a small part of my life, I was barely out of diapers before the Americans pulled out of that quagmire. However, I did endure the healing process the country went through, mainly in the 1980s. I had teachers, friends’ parents and several other people in my life who were veterans. The impact that “Platoon” had on veterans, moviegoers and the nation itself was profound and undeniable.
Now that 25 years have passed, and literally dozens of Vietnam War films have come and gone, “Platoon” remains one of the best ones out there. And this is coming from a person who thinks that modern-day filmmaker Oliver Stone is a big, fat windbag.
“Platoon” happened early enough in Stone’s career that he hadn’t become jaded too much by Hollywood, and his experimental artistic desires hadn’t bubbled to the surface and consumed him. He tells a raw story, which gets heavy-handed at times, but overall seeks to let the viewer experience the war rather than solve it.
I haven’t served in any military, let alone fought in a foreign war, and I do not pretend to know what it was like to even be in Vietnam let alone fight in a war there. However, the experience in this film feels authentic, and compared to what I’ve read and heard from veterans, it seems very realistic.
“Platoon” abandons overly traditional storytelling in a very subtle way. Like many soldiers felt in country, “Platoon” drops the viewer onto the tarmac in Vietnam and hits the ground running. There’s very little explanation or context in the movie, helping the viewer to feel as conflicted and confused as the characters. Throughout the movie, we never quite know what they’re fighting for, just what the mission is. And things escalate to a very ugly nature extremely fast, sometimes catching us off-guard.
“Platoon” is a unique film, not just in the Hollywood mainstream, but also for director Oliver Stone’s filmography. It continues to be his best movie to date and as powerful now as it was in 1986.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There’s very little problems in this movie that plague other Stone films. It doesn’t preach about politics. It doesn’t present too many straw man characters. It’s relatively straightforward, considering its approach. The only sins that “Platoon” really commits are some moments and story elements that are not very subtle. And, after decades of Vietnam movies, there are times when the film seems to fall into cliche. You just have to remind yourself that “Platoon” helped build some of these cliches.
The two-disc 25th Anniversary set includes a Blu-ray and a DVD of the film. Many of the special features are imported from previous releases, though that doesn’t make things any less interesting. There are two commentaries, one featuring Stone and the other featuring military advisor Dale Dye. There are deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Stone. Additional standard featurettes include the theatrical trailer and TV spots.
The long-form documentary “Flashback to Platoon” features experts talking about the war itself. Some of these are good speakers, though when the interviews turn to pretentious, stuffy university professors who speak condescendingly and with too much self-importance, the documentary falters. Still, it’s a neat feature that puts the war in perspective, both historically and cinematically.
There’s also a tear-jerking look at a discussion of Vietnam vets after viewing the film called “One War, Many Stories” as well as a short featurette called “Preparing for ‘Nam.”
Finally, three vignettes are presented, giving some trivia background on the movie and the people involved: “Caputo & the 7th Fleet,” “Dye Training Method” and “Gordon Gekko.”
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who appreciate a good war movie.