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Platoon Reviews

Chris (Charlie Sheen), a green recruit and child of privilege who dropped out of college and enlisted, finds himself in Vietnam as a member of a platoon divided against itself. On one side is Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), a horribly scarred veteran of several tours of duty--a morally corrupt, remorseless killing machine. The men who follow him seek clear-cut solutions to the complicated realities they face. On the other side is veteran sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe), who, though equally skilled in the ways of death, still retains some semblance of humanity and attempts to impose a sense of compassion and responsibility on his men. Chris is caught between these two in what he describes as a "battle for possession of my soul." PLATOON is a shattering experience. Writer-director Stone, a Vietnam veteran, used his first-hand knowledge to create one of the most realistic war films ever made, one whose success lies in the mass of detail Stone brings to the screen, bombarding the senses with vivid sights and sounds that have the feel of actual experience. Stone captures the heat, the dampness, the bugs, the jungle rot, and, most important, the confusion and fear experienced by the average soldier. The men in PLATOON do perform heroic acts on occasion, but the heroism isn't motivated by love of country or idealism--it is motivated by pure terror, by desperation, by a desire to end the madness one way or another. Never before in a war film has stark terror among soldiers been such a tangible, motivating force. There is nothing appealing in Stone's war; it doesn't have a "recruitment flavor." However, while PLATOON has no equal when it comes to capturing the reality of the combat experience, it falters when Stone attempts to apply greater meaning to his vision. The film's battle between the forces of good and evil as represented by the two sergeants is heavy-handed, as is Sheen's totally unnecessary voice-over narration, which dilutes the power of Stone's visuals. On an incredibly low budget of $6.5 million, Stone brought his cast and crew to the Philippines and shot PLATOON in a swift 54 days. To everyone's surprise, the film was a massive hit with the critics and the public.