Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe
Director: Oliver Stone
Running Time: 120 mins
Platoon is an American film about a young volunteer soldier in Vietnam who finds himself in a deep moral crisis as he witnesses the horrors of war, and the horrors committed by the troops involved.
In what is arguably the darkest of one of the darkest war genres of all, Platoon proves a heavy-going, disturbing and powerful piece of anti-war cinema that will leave a strong impression on you long after it’s over. With dark and claustrophobic cinematography contrasted by striking battle sequences, and furthered by characters that fall into extreme despair, the film is consistently dark, strongly resembling the deepest depths of hell.
There’s a lot that Platoon offers to give a strong image of the horror of the Vietnam War. Of course, it is a powerfully anti-war film, and as such is more intent on showing the psychological and moral hell that men were put through at the time, rather than anything more centred on the wider historical context.
In that, the film centres heavily on the way in which individuals are emotionally affected by the events of the war, making Platoon one of the most intimate and dramatic war films of all. At the centre is Charlie Sheen, who plays a young rich soldier who volunteered to fight in the war. A fascinating character from beginning to end, the way in which we see the incredibly rapid development from an innocent young man to a battle-hardened and deeply scarred fighter is truly exceptional.
There’s nothing about the film that aims to glorify the bravery of the soldiers fighting for freedom, but rather exemplify how much one man’s life can be completely changed by nothing more than a few months in the midst of battle. Throughout, the young man comes across the horrors of warfare, but is further exposed to the sheer inhumanity of soldiers on both sides of the war, with the awful treatment of Vietnamese locals by American soldiers standing up as just as horrific as the brutal murder tactics of the North Vietnamese troops.
As well as Sheen’s young character, the role of the supporting characters’ actions are vital in crafting this hellish and deeply dark image of the war. To see young, baby-faced men off to fight in a brutal war is fairly heavy-going, but to see them fall even further into immorality is particularly striking, reinforced by the image of an older sergeant with a thirst for blood and hunger after spending years in the midst of the horrors of battle.
All in all, the film is a very deep and incisive portrayal of the human and psychological effects of war, offering a far more emotional and undoubtedly depressing insight into the seriousness and horror of battle, something that I was hugely impressed by.
As well as that, however, the way in which the film is shot and directed plays a huge role in crafting the deeply dark atmosphere. Oliver Stone does a brilliant job throughout, making a film that’s both elegant and riveting in its portrayal of warfare, but is unrelenting in its frank delivery of the true horrors of battle. The central theme of the film, a powerfully moving piece of string music that is as depressing as its beautiful and elegant, sums up that atmosphere perfectly, playing a pivotal role in accentuating the emotional power of some of the film’s most striking scenes.
Furthermore, the thrilling cinematography throughout, that shows both the darkest, most claustrophobic areas of war as the troops crawl through the mud of the jungle, as well as the most brutal and dynamic battles, makes for a film that’s as visually impactful as it is emotionally so. I’ve said that Platoon really leaves a mark, and along with the emotional power and stunning score, the exceptional visuals are undoubtedly instrumental in leaving such an impression.
Overall, I was thrilled by Platoon. It’s an anti-war movie that passionately delivers its message through a strongly character-driven story, showing how the horrors of war can completely turn an innocent man’s life upside down, furthered by thrilling visuals, score and directing throughout that all come together to make a strikingly dark and depressing portrayal of warfare, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.2.