Platoon (1986)

A key entry in Hollywood’s cycle of Vietnam films, Platoon put writer-director Oliver Stone on the map, winning Oscars for best director and best picture.

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Film details

Cast & Credits

Introduction

“Platoon fully deserved its reputation as the proper American admission of pain over Vietnam. It had a command that reminded one of the Norman Mailer of The Naked and the Dead.”
David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2002

A young soldier played by Charlie Sheen (son of Apocalypse Now star Martin Sheen) relates his experience of the war in Vietnam in a series of letters home. The apogee of writer-director Oliver Stone’s mix of craft and indignation, the personal and the political, Platoon is based on his own experiences as a US infantryman.

As well as the cruelty of the conflict, including atrocities heaped upon local villagers, Stone depicts the chasms among the soldiers themselves, which mean that barely contained anarchy rules over much of the platoon’s actions. This reaches its climax in the murderous rivally between the platoon’s sergeants, Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Elias (Willem Dafoe), whose opposing attitudes rule the conduct of their men. Along with Stone’s horror of war, there’s an underlying fascination with its power and spectacle.

Stone completed a Vietnam trilogy with Born on the Fourth of July (1989) – about a disabled veteran – and Heaven & Earth (1993), from the perspective of a Vietnamese woman.

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