Once upon a time, I went through a military movie phase. It was early 2009, and to be quite honest, I had contemplated joining the forces. I remember going to Blockbuster every other day and renting two to three war movies and watching some of the greats.
One day I did rent Platoon, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in the mid-1980s. Obviously, if you take home that grand prize, you have to be a great movie, one of the best of your genre.
As we fast forward to 2021, I just recently watched Platoon for the second time and can’t, for the life of me, remember why I gave the film a 6/10 rating on my IMDb profile. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for it, or maybe my taste and expectations have changed since the first viewing.
I can not insult the cast, including a bunch of young bucks like Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Kevin Dillon, Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Keith David, and Johnny Depp. However, what I can complain about is the rest of the movie, which is violent and gory and just being another story about the life and times of those serving in Vietnam.
One of the biggest turnoffs for me was the narration by Sheen’s character Charlie, who dropped out of school to volunteer to get involved in the conflict. Then there is the constant battle between Sgt. Barnes (Berenger) and Sgt. Elias. Both characters destroy their platoon’s morale by trying to do the other to be the alpha male to the new guys.
This movie is about the conflict in Vietnam as much as the psychological toll the soldiers have to suffer through, just serving in their platoon in the middle of a conflict. There’s one scene when the guys invade and burn down a village. Charlie and Bunny (Dillon) beat up this one-legged guy for absolutely no reason, besides being dicks who have guns. One of them finally stop the teasing and bash the poor man’s skull in, which was so disturbing to me. I felt so bad for that guy, like that moment really stuck with me.
I understand that Oliver Stone, who also served in Vietnam, wanted to keep the characters and events as real as possible. That the audience can see how messed up life was on the other side of the pond. Some films push the envelope, and others just glaze over the material to focus on different conflict aspects. I get that this stuff happened regularly over there, but my conscience doesn’t need to see innocent people get their bashed in for no reason, fiction or not.
It was the tipping point for me, and with a few other things I didn’t quite remember from the first time, made this last viewing experience, not a great one. Now that I have watched it again to write this review, I don’t plan on revisiting the jungle anytime soon, maybe never again. 3/10