Movie Reviews

Barns holds a gun to a child’s head to get information.  Oliver Stone, Platoon, Action, Drama, War, 1986.

 81% Say Platoon is Perfect

Charlie Sheen watching a soldier murder a child in  Oliver Stone, Platoon, Action, Drama, War, 1986.

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 81% ranking, which is similar to what viewers who have registered on the site have said, making Platoon a “Certified Fresh” tomato. Reviewers spend a lot of time talking about the realism of the film, choosing to emphasize the realism the film portrays based off of Stone’s fear of the war.

“Oliver Stone is a muckraker disguised as a moviemaker” one critic from TIME raved during his review of the film. “[His] blood vessels burst with hold indignation.” “Platoon is one of those movies that, once seen, will never be forgotten, and, at least those who were not in Vietnam, will forever alter the way in which the war is considered,” raves another critic from reeelviews.net who articulates that Platoon illustrates, in unflinching detail, the dehumanizing power of war. [5] To say unflinching is putting this film lightly to say the least. Most critics seem to agree that Platoon is a raw picture of what life in Vietnam was like for Chris Taylor/ Stone, other critics pan the film for its simple plot and its over-exaggeration of the soldier’s brutality.

The Personal Story

When unpacking Platoon one of the most important items to notice is that Stone is looking back on his experiences in Vietnam, not his attempt to tell the real story of what happened to every single soldier who stepped into that combat zone. Stone seeks to ask without sounding preachy, “Am I my brother’s killer?” the answer is a resounding “you bet.” [1] The film was only released in a few theaters compared to others that are generally wildly circulated (think Transformers, 2007 compared to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 2012). Despite this, Platoon gains a large following in the theater and a strong following after it’s released on DVD. Because Stone was painting his own experience, it was hard to capture everything. As Corliss, Bland, Dutka and Worrell stress, “there are 2.7 million stories in the naked jungle.” [3]  Each veteran has his own view of the war. Each veteran has a Platoon story.[4] Stone would have a motivation to make this film as brutal as possible to remind people that he has been there and the horrors of war are real. But perhaps this rawness is also why some -including Veterans- do not care much for Platoon.

A Vietnamese Father whose wife has just been shot mourning for her.  Oliver Stone, Platoon, Action, Drama, War, 1986.

Good Old American Honesty

Bob Duncan, who served in the 1st Infantry (not with Stone, but during the same time) wanted to point out that “[Stone] brought back every major cliche — the “baby killer” and “dope addict” that they’ve had to live through the past 20 years and stick it in a film about Nam.” There was also grumbling that this film could bring back the depictions that soldiers were evil and one veteran was afraid he’d have to go into hiding again. Some veterans deny this culture of getting high on the job (one does not, in an interview with one soldier, he says dope was real), and say Stone was bitter. Stone displays cowards and trembling soldiers in the film and points out that there are some psychos too. That is not the military some choose to remember. But other Veterans point to Stone saying he made the fight real and made Americans actually feel what a soldier felt while in green hell. The Vietnam Memorial might just be a slab of granite wedged in the National Mall, but this film is wedged in our consciousness.

Historical Accuracy?

To suggest that this film is not historically accurate is to suggest all dogs are cute. The reality is, some dogs are not as cute as others. But they’re all lovable. We have to take this notion with a grain of salt. The Vietnam Experience was a varied  experience. Some people spent all of their time at the rear typing, while others were sent out on patrols to “find and kill.” This is one of the downsides of the film, the lack of diversification of the soldiers in the army. Some were medics who saw a lot of combat action, others never even made it to the jungle. Stone’s Platoon is historically accurate to a point. Soldiers died in Vietnam, they burned down villages, and sadly, killed Vietnamese civilians out of rage. We have to understand that Stone is only painting one picture of the War, not everyone’s as suggested in the movie trailer. Stone said the purpose of this film was to get people to remember what happened during the war. Stone took specific scenes from his life and placed them in the film. Stone was shot in the neck, Stone watch one of his fellow soldiers rape a girl who had done nothing wrong. Taylor experienced the same in the film. “I emptied a rifle clip at a mans feet… he wouldn’t stop smiling.” His Platoon commander beat an old woman to death and boasted about it. “We killed a lot of innocents.”[1] ” He felt people had forgotten that Vietnam had happened and that millions of people risked their lives overseas and even more came home wounded. As far as stretching the truth, one has to look rather hard to find that. War was brutal, chaotic, confusing and unprepared. This film ends with a nightmare, but Stone’s life does not. He’s an Academy Award winning director, while Taylor is still trapped in a vicious hell other veteran’s face everyday.

 


[1] Richard Corliss, “Platoon: Viet Nam, the Way It Really Was, on Film,” Time, n.d., http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,963314,00.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Berardinelli, James. “Reelviews: Berardinelli Sees Film.” Reelviews Movie Reviews. Reelviews, 1986. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=839>.