Cinerama: Platoon

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama


By Mike Derderian “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, war is something I despise for it means destruction of innocent lives.”

Bruce Springsteen cried those words back in the 80’s in a song entitled “War”. Back then many Americans related to the song for it expressed their indignation against how young soldiers were sent to fight in unjustified wars.

In the last two years, images of blood-shed, human remnants and somber faces of children appeared on almost all TV channels, turning my stomach upside down from all the atrocities that we humans commit.

When will it stop? Alas the answer is never, as long as we have the power to kill. But at least we can give it a try.

One of the persons who are still trying to make a difference in the world is the American director Oliver Stone who is known for his outrageous films like “Wall Street”, “Talk Radio”, and “JFK”, not to mention the two recent documentaries he produced and directed, “Persona Non Grata” and “Comandante”. Both films caused quite a stir in the united states—the first was about the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the latter about Fidal Castro.

Most of Stone’s films are realistic depicting normal people and everyday events—war, greed, money and conspiracies, however, it wasn’t until 1986 when he wrote and directed one of the most controversial films in Hollywood history. It was “Platoon” which earned Stone an Oscar for best director.

The film is about a war platoon during the American-Vietnam war. Being a Vietnam veteran himself, Stone’s own interpretation and vision made it stand as a masterpiece.

The story is based on Oliver Stone’s own experience in Vietnam, through which we are given a realistic idea about the atrocities committed by an American platoon in Vietnam and how sometimes things take a wrong turn.

The leading cast in “Platoon” consists of Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, William Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon, Mark Moses and Keith David.

The film revolves around Chris Taylor (Sheen) who left college and enlisted in the army, in an attempt to find some answers about life.

We are told about Vietnam through the narration of Chris, who is stunned by the truth about that place and the conflict that is brewing between Sgt. Barnes (Berneger) and Sgt. Elias (Dafoe).

The genius of Stone’s direction and visualization of the characters add further depth to the plot. We see Barnes face, scarred beyond repair; a face filled with hate and anger. At first, Taylor is inspired by the rough and tough persona of Barnes who knows how to survive in the jungle, admiring this idol of Courage and extreme brutality, however, all that will change.

Taylor will eventually identify himself with Sgt. Elias who gives the impression of roughness; however, his exterior hides a more tolerant and compassionate character.

For Taylor, the incident in the village was an eye-opener to the brutality and savagery of his fellow soldiers and the war—something which stone managed to deliver in his message against war.

We are taken to a Vietnamese village surrounded by rice fields. The platoon is in search of Vietcong enemy soldiers and they believe that the villagers are helping the Vietcong that is why they begin to ransack the village. The brutality of the scene is emphasized when Barnes is questions the village leader and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t tell him about the Vietcong’s hideout.

In fear on her husband, the wife of the village leader shouts hysterically looking at Barnes, who eventually loses his temper and pulls out his gun and shoots her in the head in front of her husband and little daughter. The child begins to wail and shout when Barnes savagely grabs her and threatens her father that she is next, when suddenly, Elias who was in another place, shouts at Barnes and tells him what the hell he is doing, because they are soldiers not excution squads who murder innocent people.

Barnes is enraged, and tells him to stay out of this, however, Elias jumps at him and hits him, a fight breaks out and the entire platoon tries to separate them from each other. Elias shouts that he will report this incident to the command, however Barnes has other intentions.

The personal war between Barnes and Elias causes a split among the soldiers serving in that platoon, making them choose sides and hate each other’s guts.

One of the controversial scenes in the film is the marijuana-smoking scene, where Elias asks Chris to inhale the smoke from a gun barrel as his inmates dance together to the tunes of a drug song called “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane.

“Platoon” is one of the best films that were made about Vietnam. It makes us realize that war offers no victory to anyone but only causes pain and suffering to innocent people.


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