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 nearly 20 years and claimed countless lives. Director Oliver Stone experienced this war first hand when he served in Vietnam (1967-1968). Stone’s experiences during the war influenced his film Platoon, basing some of it on what he saw during his time in the service.
Platoon is set in 1967. Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) decides to drop out of college to join the military at the height of the Vietnam war. After joining up with his platoon, he meets his two leading sergaents, who are polar opposites, as well as many other soldiers in Chris’ very same position, most of whom didn’t any choice. After beginning his tenure, Chris starts to see how bad and devastating war could be, realizing how naive his own beliefs had been. Platoon takes a look at the men who fought these battles, and some of the events that changed their lives forever.
Some of the most crucial parts of any war film are the battles showcased. In Platoon the battles are hectic and all over the place. During the war, U.S. soldiers never knew when the Viet Cong were coming or where they were coming from, but they were pretty sure there would be a lot of them, and they would soon be out numbered. Stone really tries his best to show the audience how bad it got at times when all hell broke loose in Vietnam. I’m sure that was something he wanted to present accurately, having seen a lot of this stuff first hand.
Stone also examines the more personal battles going on within this specific platoon. There’s a tug of war between the two sergeants leading this group of soldiers. There’s also drug use, problems between the new recruits and the guys that are already there, and racial tension that threatens to boil over at times. It’s careful in showing the many different aspects of the military life witnessed by the soldiers of that era. There is also tension between those drafted into the Vietnam War and those who had chosen to be there.
The draft was still around in America during the Vietnam war, so young men had no choice but to serve if chosen. But there were others who enlisted, anxious to fight in a far-off war. Stone effectively shows this contrast in Platoon. Some of soldiers we meet are scared out of their minds; some are on the verge of breaking down, and others just want to get out there and kill something. You have to have a deep cast to adequately represent the many different types of individuals involved. From those who just want to go home to soldiers with a 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 by creating a sense of realism to the film. Nothing is glorified here, but there are many questions raised about 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.