Tom Berenger-Staff Sergeant Barnes
Willem Dafoe-Sergeant Elias
Charlie Sheen-Chris Taylor/Narrator
Forest Whitaker-Big Harold
John C. McGinley-Sergeant O'Neill
Mark Moses-Lieutenant Wolfe
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Writer and director Oliver Stone created this 1986 Academy Award winner for best picture based on his own experiences in Viet Nam. It is probably his best directing job although some people may argue for Salvador, JFK, or Born on the Fourth of July.
Tom Beringer, who plays the experienced Sergeant Barnes, was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category along with Willem Defoe who plays Sergeant Elias. They lost out to Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters. Charlie Sheen plays Chris Taylor, an idealistic student who had dropped out of college, joined the army, and volunteered for Viet Nam. His idealism and view of war in general rapidly changes during the course of the film.
The enemy are the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong but you rarely view them except as shadowy figures in the jungle or momentarily illuminated by the light of a flare. There are no defined battle lines and the combat scenes lead you to believe that the enemy is everywhere.
The line between good and evil is blurred or non-existent in this film. Sergeant Elias is portrayed as a caring, intelligent leader who escapes reality through the use of drugs. His nemesis, Sergeant Barnes, is portrayed as an efficient fighting machine who will stop at nothing to get the job done. You soon realize that he, too, is just doing everything to ensure his own survival.
The story is narrated by Chris Taylor and begins with his arrival in Viet Nam. The first thing he sees is rows of bodies being readied for shipment back to the U.S. He sees soldiers with the "thousand yard stare" heading for their transport back home, having finished their tour of duty. After only a week, he realizes he's made a horrible mistake by volunteering. He finds out that other soldiers don't associate with the newcomers because they haven't put in their time. There is a belief among the troops that if you're going to get killed in Viet Nam, it's better that you get killed early in your tour. That way you don't suffer so much. Because of the lack of suffering, a newly arrived soldier's life isn't worth as much as the people who are "short". After Chris has been there a while, other soldiers advise him to count the days he's put in, not how many he has to go. That way, they rationalize, it won't seem so long.
During a patrol, a rift develops between Barnes and Elias which causes two factions to form in the platoon. This leads to the final surprising confrontation.
Some critics complain that the character development in the story is weak and there is no plot. I think this adds to the story and makes it different from other movies which glorify war. There are no real heroes in this movie and no real villains. There is just a group of frightened men fighting for survival in their own ways and counting the days until they can leave the country.
I rate Platoon as one of the best war movies ever made along with Apocalypse Now and Patton. Stone has done an excellent job. Look for him in a cameo role as an officer in a bunker that gets blown up by the enemy.
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|Apocalypse Now||(1978) An army Captain searches for a renegade Colonel In Vietnam.|
|Blackboard Jungle||(1955) A story of juvenile delinquency at an inner city school.|
|Bullitt||(1968) A San Francisco police detective searches for gunmen who killed an informant.|
|Cool Hand Luke||(1967) An ex war hero is sentenced to a chain gang for cutting the heads off parking meters.|
|Deliverance||(1972) Four friends go on a canoe trip where they encounter unforeseen terrors.|
|The Day of the Jackal||(1973) A sophisticated assassin is hired by a French group to kill President de Gaulle.|
|Electra Glide in Blue||(1973) An Arizona motorcycle patrolman tries to become a detective.|
|Fahrenheit 451||(1966) Ray Bradbury's futuristic tale of book burning and mind control.|
|Fail-Safe||(1964) Cold War thriller where U.S. bombers are unleashed upon The Soviet Union.|
|Fargo||(1996) Car salesman hires two inept criminals to kidnap his wife.|
|Glory||(1989) Colonel Robert Gould Shaw commands the Civil War's first all volunteer black regiment.|
|In Cold Blood||(1967) Adaptation of Truman Capote's novel about the murder of a farm family in rural Kansas.|
|Inherit the Wind||(1960) Account of trial of John Scopes for teaching The Theory of Evolution in Tennessee.|
|Jeremiah Johnson||(1972) A veteran becomes a hard fighting mountain man.|
|Logan's Run||(1976) A policeman of the future tries to prevent escapes from the city.|
|The Lords of Discipline||(1983) Control of classmates at a southern military school by a group known as "The Ten".|
|The Ox-Bow Incident||(1943) An out of control posse sets out to avenge the death of a local rancher.|
|Patton||(1970) A famous general commands armies during World War II.|
|Platoon||(1986) An idealistic soldier learns that idealism doesn't exist in Vietnam.|
|The Right Stuff||(1983) Story that covers the breaking of the sound barrier through the Mercury space program.|
|Seven Days in May||(1964) Senior military officers plot to take over the government of The United States.|
|Son of the Morning Star||Fairly accurate account of Colonel George A. Custer leading up to the Battle of the Little Big Horn.|
|Southern Comfort||(1981) Louisiana National Guard on maneuvers in a swamp meet up with local opposition.|
|The Taking of Pelham One Two Three||(1974) A gang hijacks a New York subway train and holds the passengers for ransom.|
|Witness||(1985) A Philadelphia detective hides in a rural Amish community from corrupt police .|
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|Airplane!||(1980) Story of dysfunctional crew and passengers on board a Chicago bound flight.|
|American Graffiti||(1973) One night in the lives of teenagers in 1962|
|Animal House||(1978) A run down fraternity's members cause chaos on campus.|
|Arsenic and Old Lace||(1944) Two elderly matrons poison lonely men and bury the bodies in the basement.|
|Cat Ballou||(1966) An outlaw and her gang rob trains to try to break a town.|
|The Cheyenne Social Club||(1970) A cowboy inherits a brothel called The Cheyenne Social Club.|
|Dr. Strangelove||(1964) Insane base commander sends his B52 bombers into the Soviet Union.|
|Harvey||(1950) Quiet, unassuming man has a giant rabbit for a friend.|
|The Mouse That Roared||(1959) Smallest country in the world declares war on the U.S. and wins.|
|On Golden Pond||(1981) Elderly couple spend a summer at their cottage on a lake.|
|The President's Analyst||(1967) A prominent psychoanalyst becomes the psychiatrist for the president.|
|Raising Arizona||(1987) An ex-con and a policewoman kidnap a baby to raise as their own.|
|Support Your Local Sheriff||(1969) A drifter on his way to Australia takes the post as sheriff of a western boom town.|
|Waking Ned Devine||(1998) Villagers try to collect a dead man's lottery winnings.|