There’s just something about war movies that draw audience members to theaters in droves. While World War II arguably gets the most play, the Vietnam War is another one that’s right up there in terms of theatrical showings. Platoon is a fine example of one of the best in the genre, and 25 years later it remains a stellar piece of filmmaking.
Written and directed by Oliver Stone, Platoon was released in 1986 and featured a young Charlie Sheen as the star player. While he’s something of a joke now-a-days, one would be hard-pressed to take a crack at his acting chops in Platoon. Sheen sold the picture, but it also helped that he was surrounded by some great talent such as William Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Forest Whitaker, and Johnny Depp. Back in the day the film also picked up four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Needless to say, if you haven’t seen the film by now you’ve been living under a rock.
For the 25th Anniversary of Platoon MGM has decided to celebrate the film with a Blu-ray release. This two-disc set includes the film on Blu-ray and a copy of the movie on DVD. There are bonus features aplenty, naturally, but the main draw is the film itself and how it looks in high definition. We’ll get into the technical bits in a moment but first, what about the movie?
Platoon really runs viewers through the ringer. Rather than focus on sweeping heroics of a platoon of Americans, the film really gets down into the muck of the jungle and shows the psychological toll war had on the soldiers that fought it. It’s a taught, stressful movie that focuses more on atmosphere, setting, and mood rather than story. Granted there is a plot, and it’s quite good, but the brightest feather in Platoon‘s cap is the way it impacts you at the core.
As far as the story is concerned we get to see much of the horrors of war from the perspective of Private Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), who is new to the fray. Taylor comes from an affluent family and has decided to make a man of himself by fighting the good fight. Unfortunately he quickly discovers that the fight isn’t quite as good and his greatest enemy may just be his peers and the jungle itself.
While Taylor takes a while to learn the ropes, there’s a confrontation between two commanding officers that takes precedence in the plot. During an inspection of a village everyone gets more than a little hot under the collar and quickly a rift forms between the platoon. Barely able to trust the men at their backs, facing unbearable heat, and fighting back against the native enemy begins to take a toll on everyone. Things continue to take a turn for the worst and tensions run high right up to one hell of a climax that has a way of leaving you breathless as you become wrapped up in the events of the film.
As a movie, Platoon deserves all the praise and recognition it has received over the years. The film is simply a stunning and truthful portrayal of war and one really gets the sense that the experiences captured on film were a very personal thing for Stone. This is a movie that deserves to be in everyone’s collection and the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release is definitely worth the asking price.
As far as the picture quality of the Blu-ray, Platoon is presented with a full 1080p high definition encoded with AVC at 28 MBPS. The 1.85:1 widescreen image is a thing of beauty as the transfer employed here has brought new life to the film. Sure there are evidence of age here and there, some grain, and the occasional artifact, but by and large contrast is fantastic, black levels are rich, and there’s a fantastic amount of clarity in most scenes. Skin tones are natural for the most part and backgrounds are rife with detail, popping in just about every frame.
The sound quality for Platoon is pretty good as well. The quality doesn’t quite live up to the precedent set by the video grades, but the audio performs admirably regardless. The film is presented with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track as its main source of output. The track offers a good deal of sharpness and clarity, and LFE is definitely strong enough most of the time, but the sense of immersion in this track isn’t the greatest. Rear channels are used, but not as effectively as they could have been, and ultimately I’d say the audio package here doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s a solid presentation of an older film, but those looking for home theater showcase pieces will be left wanting.
Packed in with this Blu-ray release is a DVD copy of the film as well. The standard definition version features solid specifications and is a step above the previous same-format release.
For bonus features there are two audio commentaries included on the Blu-ray: one with Director Oliver Stone, and the other with Military Advisor Dale Dye. In both cases the commentaries relate personal experiences and they are rather interesting to listen to. In the end I’d say Stone’s track is the better of the two, but Captain Dye’s is worthwhile as well. Additional commentary by Stone is supplied for eleven minutes worth of deleted and extended scenes.
Moving on to bigger stuff, “Flashback to Platoon” is a three-part featurette that looks at the time period the film is set, the production of the film, and the reception of it. “One War, Many Stories” again continues the personal aspect of Platoon in the sense that it includes interviews of veterans that served in the war. “Preparing for ‘Nam” is a similar feature with the interviewees talking about their decision to enlist. Smaller features include “Caputo & the 7th Fleet”, “Dye Training Method”, and “Gordon Gekko”. There are also trailers and TV spots included on the Blu-ray disc. The DVD disc includes the main feature.
Platoon‘s 25th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo release does great justice to the film. The movie is an impactful, moving, and deeply personal piece by Oliver Stone and it stands as one of his greatest efforts. A classic in almost every regard, Platoon is a timeless film that has been given a new life on Blu-ray. Fans looking for a worthy high definition upgrade will be pleased with what they find here as it’s decidedly better looking than MGM’s Special Edition DVD release.
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