Platoon (1986)

9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 8/10

Berenger and Defoe, good young cast

Some weak dialogue, firefights don't seem as grand as other war movies

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Platoon

Studio:  Hemdale Film Corporation

Genre(s):  Drama/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  December 19, 1986

MPAA Rating:  R


Great…this is just great…

Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is experiencing his first venture into adulthood and war when he volunteers himself for a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967.  He finds himself caught between two soldiers fighting a battle of their own.  On one hand, he has Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes (Tom Berenger) who believes in winning the war at any cost, and the cost of one’s soul doesn’t matter if victory is achieved.  On the other hand, Chris is faced with Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe) whose tours of duties have soured him to the validity of the war and what the United States is doing in Vietnam.  When Elias opposes Barnes, tragedy occurs, and Taylor finds himself in a war within the war, and everyone is the victim.


We’re going to have some problems…aren’t we?

Directed and written by Oliver Stone, Platoon is a Vietnam War film.  The film was released to critical acclaim and a strong box office return.  It won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound and Best Film Editing with nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Tom Berenger), Best Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe), Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography.  It is the first part of Stone’s Vietnam War trilogy which was followed by Born on the Fourth of July in 1989 and Heaven & Earth in 1993.  The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2019.


Whatever gets the job done…ok…maybe this is a bit much

Platoon is one of those films that is good but has aspects that I don’t love.  I think the firefights in this film feel pretty small and not confusing so much as not big enough.  Apocalypse Now has the grander scale Vietnam war battles, but it could be that I am just jaded to war battles after films like Saving Private Ryan.  Vietnam’s battle were on smaller scale so maybe the movie is dated, or maybe the movie is how Stone intended you to see the battles.

While I like the main story, some of the dialogue is weak.  There is the typical “I’ve got a girlfriend back home” type speeches, and much of Charlie Sheen’s pontifications on his situation are overblown even for a serious situation.  I think Stone tries too hard to have “natural” dialogue and that it comes off a bit fake as a result.


Why can’t I just go for a walk in the jungle?

What really propels Platoon and makes it a great movie are the performances by Berenger and Dafoe.  Berenger is scary as the scarred and bitter Barnes who is willing to kill to keep the war going.  Barnes is the war and the war is Barnes, and they need each other.  Barnes loves America, believes in America, and sees Elias as a threat to America…therefore Elias must be eliminated.  Elias on the other hand I think loves America but hates what has happened.  Elias kind of represents the people instead of the institution and is seeing the war in a more clear and humane approach.  Both performances are great, and I think cancelled each other out when Oscar rolled around.


Shouldn’t you be jumping down on Jump Street?

Both actors are backed by a nice young group of actors.  Sheen follows in Martin Sheen’s Apocalypse Now footsteps as the confused soldier (though as I mentioned, his speeches are a bit much).  Kevin Dillon and John C. McGinley play Berenger’s yes-men with perfect sliminess and are almost worst than Berenger with their follower sheep-like behavior.  Other actors making cameos are a young Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, and Tony Todd.

Platoon is a good picture despite its flaws.  It is worth seeing simply because it was Best Picture, but also because it had great performances.  It can be added to the classic style of “war is hell” with America coming out the loser in it all.  Platoon is not an uplifting film, but a film that makes you think about war and its merits.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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