(Originally written February 19, 2007)
Platoon is a film of such power, deeply personal because of writer-director Oliver Stone’s service during the Vietnam War. The film brings the setting to life, allowing viewers to feel the insects crawling on their necks. “Adagio for Strings” is used effectively in this film to create a tragic atmosphere – a powerful elegy for those who died in Vietnam. What makes this film so potent today is that it asks universal questions about the nature of war. By supporting our troops, do we support the bloodthirsty commanders who shed innocent blood? The film questions whether America should blindly believe in its leaders or open its eyes to corruption. The film also looks at class and the pride of America. Willem Dafoe’s character once notes, “We’ve been kicking other peoples’ asses for so long I figured it’s time we got ours kicked.” However, the film is often at its weakest when it relies too heavily on philosophical dialogue, instead of using the power of images. The film is also occasionally heavy-handed in its characterizations, notably with Tom Berenger’s Sgt. Barnes, complete with a disfigured face. Overall, this is a great film that intelligently investigates war but lacks the same level of artistic skill of other Vietnam War films such as Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter.