#170: Platoon (1986)

When and how did I watch this?

December 16th, 2015, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

The first time I saw it was during a Vietnam unit in an English class my junior year in high school.  It was certainly a huge shock — I was vaguely familiar with the atrocities that were the Vietnam War, but nothing this vivid had ever been presented to me.  Entering this second viewing, I was slightly hesitant, but also looked forward to a better understanding of the conflict and the film.

What do I know about it now?

Olive Stone did a good job creating grit and inner turmoil.  The whole movie is a mess — not in terms of quality, but in that there is no order in the field the entire length of the film.  I suppose that was the critical problem with our involvement in Vietnam: while our patriotic intentions were noble, our overall focus being in a guerrilla war was blurred and our inability to fight back was frustrating both on the ground and tactically.  We even see some frustration from a higher ranking guy who nearly gets blown up in the end in the movie. Sheen’s character progression is alarming, going from naive to hardened to wholly complacent.  Dafoe and Berenger are also spectacular. What I didn’t like about Platoon was the overuse of language and drugs, which I felt was unsettling and possibly inaccurate.  I suppose Stone would be the expert here — I wasn’t even alive, and the man was actually there — but I felt those elements might have been glamorized for shock value.  I’ve seen Natural Born Killers (a huge mistake, in my youth) and Any Given Sunday, which both subscribe to the same thing.

What are some themes in the film?

Corruption, coming of age, war, drugs, trust, loyalty

Did this affect me personally?

Yes.  It makes me sick. And that’s the idea, I’m sure.

Why is this ranked #170?

It’s Stone’s best work, and it won 4 Oscars.  It’s about war.  It’s violent and chaotic and poignant.  It belongs where it is.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She felt it was too much.  I think she was unaffected.

Would I watch it again?

I think I’m done with this one.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It’s a quality glimpse into the conflict.  I haven’t seen Apocalypse Now nor Full Metal Jacket, both ranked higher.  My opinion might change.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Sure.  There’s not much to add here.

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