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P” is for Platoon (1986)

possibly the best war movie ever made? I would say that it is right up there. I mean, there have been some epic war films made, Saving Private Ryan, although personally I only think the first scenes at Omaha beach are the only good bits in the movie, the middle part is pretty dull. Apocalypse Now? Hmm, I’m not a Brando fan and I think this film gets slightly blown out of proportion because of his presence in the movie, but Platoon for me had it all. Action, drama, comedy, a stellar cast, great direction and a truly moving score.

The second offering in my list from director Oliver Stone and I would have to say that I enjoy this film even more than JFK. Based on a lot of his own experiences in Vietnam, Stone takes this story of a young volunteer and his journey from an innocent rookie and what he goes through in just a very short space of time really. The hideousness of war and what it does to men is really put on trial here and there is so much you can love and hate about the characters in this movie.

MV5BNTU3NzY4ODY5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTkzNzE1NA@@._V1_SX214_This is of course the point. It’s an epic tale of good versus evil, but personified by the use of the soldiers themselves. “Good” played by Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias and “Evil” portrayed by Tom Berenger’s Sgt. Barnes. Stuck in the middle is Chris (Charlie Sheen) whose soul appears to the aim of the game between these two veterans of the Vietnam War. I think this was one of the first things that I saw Charlie Sheen in and it surprised me that he was actually a decent serious actor. We all know him from comedy stuff, which is of course his bread and butter, but I think he did a really good job of this movie.

Along the way we get to see the madness that war does to men and there are numerous scenes of gratuitous violence against innocent civilians, not that some of our American characters in this movie would have you believe. They all thought that if you were a native, you were guilty and I am sure that this just wasn’t the case. One such scene is Kevin Dillon’s character Bunny shooting at a poor farmer’s feet and shouting at him to dance. The crazy things some people did, and I am sure that because of Stone’s own experience of being in that war, he actually saw stuff like this happen once in a while.

There is much to study about the characters in the film, but ultimately, it is down to Chris to decide how he wants the game between good and evil to pan out. Platoon won 4 Oscars and deserved every one of them. The story of the film is made even more powerful by the use of the haunting Adagio For Strings music and I don’t think anything else would have been half as effective.

Fun Fact: Oliver Stone considered casting Johnny Depp for the lead role of Pvt. Chris Taylor but Depp was too young for the part and unknown at the time. Stone said that Depp would someday become a huge star and is thus one of the first filmmakers who introduced Johnny Depp to Hollywood. See if you can spot him in the movie.