Classic Film Review: Platoon (1986)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Platoon, 1986

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Starring: Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen


Being a millennial, it’s quite easy to forget everything about Charlie Sheen except for two things: Two and a Half Men and his meltdown in 2011, but believe it or not he can (or could) act. Charlie Sheen and his father, Martin, are also the first father and son to appear in different Oscar-winners on this countdown (after Martin Sheen appeared in The Departed). Platoon is an anti-war film set during the Vietnam War where Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is assigned to an infantry platoon under the guide of an inexperienced Lieutenant Wolfe (Mark Moses), despite him having two experienced and senior members of the team under him who everyone naturally listens to. Much like with The Hurt Locker, Platoon focuses on the main character’s desire (or lack thereof) to be in the war and everyone else’s views.

We soon learn that Chris is a college dropout born into a rich family, but he willingly chooses to go to war (he questions why only poor people should fight the war), but very early on it becomes a decision he rejects. While Chris complains silently to his letters about his time there, many other members of the platoon tried varying methods to free themselves from their situation (deliberately hurting their own foot, begging to be sent back on the ambulance helicopter). This character development is very well done throughout, and this shows the horrors in wartime, which ultimately create for an emotional connection to these soldiers; they’re not simply bred to be a soldier, they’re a person.

Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe (The English Patient) and everyone else (including a baby-faced Johnny Depp) all perform very well in this film. The development throughout their time there is made all the better by the performances of its stars. And the presentation is fantastic: the location, the camerawork, the editing, the gunfire and explosions, all look amazing.

Personally I preferred Platoon to The Hurt Locker: it’s plot was more sound the acting better and the emotional connection between the characters and the audience was greater (although it’s easier to portray worried soldiers than action-hungry bomb-disposal units). Charlie Sheen and the rest all came to light when the action required them to, and this was beautifully mixed in with their emotional moments.

Platoon is a very good anti-war film and its anti-war messages are clear throughout. A more realistic and gritty version of what happens on tours such as those (with the army clashing with themselves more so than the enemy), and all this made even better by the brilliant acting on board. Probably a bit too much shouting is my biggest criticism, but that can be expected in a war film.


Plot: * * *

Acting: * * * *

Writing: * * * *

Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¾


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