The anti-war considered film Platoon, told from a foot-soldiers point of view, does not show acts of valor and heroism that is often shown in war films. The most basic theme to this film is: war is hell, not adventure.
Director Oliver Stone (JFK), a former Vietnam vet, attempts to show us that war is not a fantasy. Stone incorporated his own experiences in Vietnam with that of the films main character, Pvt. Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen). Stone wanted to make a film that showed Vietnam the way he saw it.
Taylor, Unlike the other draftees, was a college dropout who joined the conflict as an act of patriotic duty and was quickly nicknamed a “crusader.” Taylor (and the other new soldiers) is overlooked, given no direction or information and almost completely disregarded.
He even states that, “The unwritten rule is a new guy’s life isn’t worth as much ‘cause he hasn’t put his time in yet. If your gonna get killed in the “Nam, its better to get it in the first few weeks, logic is, you don’t suffer as much.”
The aspect of this film that is most unique is the lack of a developed plot. Although many other films do it (not on purpose), Platoon does it purposely to give a war-like effect; a constant state of anxiety, fear and disorganization. Every camera angle and shot in the film is carefully planned to give the audience a type of “Vietnam virtual reality.”
As an audience, we get no clear picture of the enemy, are scared for every corner the characters take and naturally suspicious of any civilians. We are feeling the same way as the soldiers in the film.
This may be the reason this film is ranked so high on the IMBD and AFI list – it plays more like a war simulator than it does a film. I like to compare this film to one of those first person shooter games: the enemy is rarely seen, they are these heavily shadowed, almost demonized entities.
We see evidence that they exist, but we can never see them in the flesh. The battle sequences, also similar to a video game, are shown at all angles and going from one side to another, having the same disorienting effect as it did on the men in the battle.
Overall, Platoon is a great film. It is well made with an exceptional soundtrack (using jungle sounds and gunfire as music) and very well cast. We see Tom Berenger in one of his signature roles as a battle thirsty and scarred sergeant who believes he’s unstoppable and will do anything to get information and to protect himself. A major conflict in the film is between Berenger’s character and Willem Dafoe’s ‘good guy’ character.
The title of this film continues to confuse me. I am not sure if it is irony or there is more meaning. The actual definition of a platoon is a subdivision of a company of soldiers acting together as a team, usually forming a tactical unit that is commanded by a lieutenant. However, in this film, there is no true platoon.
This film does not show rows and picket lines of organized men that fight in unison and help each other, it shows men who fight the enemy inside them rather than the enemy shooting at them. It shows how cowardice and stupidity can get one killed; there are no heroes nor are their bonds of brotherhood shown here.
Vietnam was not so much a battle between two opposing forces, but a battle among each opposing force.