Throughout American History, I don't know if we can say that there's been a more controversial war than the one in Vietnam. It was seen by many as brutal, difficult and ultimately useless for the United States of America. Even President John F. Kennedy once stated that the U.S. couldn't win for the simple fact that it wasn't our war. It saw many protestors that ranged from ordinary citizens to public figures like Martin Luther King. Despite this, the war lasted for nearly 20 years and claimed countless lives. Oliver Stone was one of the men who experienced this war first hand when he was sent over to Vietnam. He directed the film Platoon and based some of it on what he saw during his time in the service.
In 1967, Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) decides to drop out of college in order to join the military during the Vietnam war. After joining his platoon, He meets his two leading sergeants who are polar opposites and many other soldiers that are in his very same position, but most of them didn't any choice. After beginning his tenure, he starts to see how bad and devastating war could be and realizes how naive his own beliefs were. Platoon is a film that takes a look at the men who fought these battles and some of the events that changed their lives forever.
Obviously one of the most important parts of any war film will be the battles that are showcased. In Platoon these battles are hectic and all over the place. The U.S. Soldiers never knew when the Viet Cong was coming or where they were coming from, but they were pretty sure it would be a lot of them and they would soon be out numbered. Stone really tried his best to show the audience how bad it got at times when all hell broke loose in Vietnam. I'm sure that was one of the important things that he wanted to get across due to the fact that he himself served in that very war and saw a lot of this stuff first hand.
As well as focusing on the war itself, Stone also takes a look at the battles going on within this specific platoon. There's a tug of war between the two sergeants who are leading this group of soldiers, drug use, problems between the new recruits and the guys that are already there and tension between races boil over at times. It's careful in showing the many different aspects of the military life that was witnessed by the soldiers in that era. There were probably more things going on for those people back then due to the fact that most of them didn't choose to enlist.
You have to remember the fact that the draft was still around in America during the Vietnam war, so you basically had no choice, but to join if you were chosen. Because they really didn't have much of a choice in going or not, you had several different reactions to everything that was going on. As shown in the movie, some of these men were scared out of their minds, some were on the verge of breaking down and others just wanted to get out there and kill something. You had to have a deep cast with actors in prominent roles in order to show this since there were so many different types of people who were involved. From the ones who just wanted to go home to the soldiers with the warrior's mentality, it's all shown here.
We all know that wars will not only kill people, but they can also destroy lives and damage souls. Platoon takes time to show us why some of those things might happen with an approach that looks toward adding realism to this particular battle. Nothing is glorified here, but questions of the morality of some of its players and the war itself are. Platoon paints a picture of good vs. evil while being in a world that's filled with shades of gray. If you want to watch a film that has plenty of meaning to go along with great acting, writing and directing, look no further than this award-winning epic.
Director: Oliver Stone
Film Length: 113 minutes
Release Date: December 24, 1986
Distributor: Metro Goldwyn Mayer