Movie: Platoon

Release Date: December 19, 1986

Director: Oliver Stone

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe

Personal History: Watched Before

Rating: 8 Oscars out of 10

‘Platoon’ was both a huge commercial and critical success when it was released in 1986. It was the third highest-grossing film that year and was the movie that everyone seemed to be talking about. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four including Best Picture. It has since been added to the American Film Institute’s “100 Years, 100 Movies” poll at number eighty-three and in 1993 it was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

At the very young age of 15, I did not see this R-rated movie when it was released in theaters. Back in the day if you were under seventeen it wasn’t as easy to get into a restricted movie like it is today. My dad, being a fan of the war genre, wanted to see the movie and probably could have gotten me in, but I wasn’t overly thrilled with the premise. War was never really my cup of tea.

The first time that my dad and I saw ‘Platoon’ was through the magic of a Blockbuster rental. Okay, it wasn’t really magic, but anytime I think back on those years (pretty much that entire decade ), a nostalgic feeling always comes over me. I was at my most impressionable ages and to me it was a magical time. So if it were a mathematical equation, it would be: Me + Blockbuster x 1980’s = Magic.

I remember being riveted by ‘Platoon’ and at the same time terrified. I could watch hundreds of movies about serial killers, monsters, zombies, aliens or ghosts and not be scared at all. However, war was too real of a concept for me to handle. The 1980’s were a magical time but also a time when nuclear war was mentioned incessantly. The idea of it kept me up at night. So watching a realistic war movie had me at the edge of my seat and left me traumatized for days.

I revisited the film over a decade later when I bought the film as part of my Academy Award Best Picture movie collection. Although the concept of war still frightened me and it’s by far my least favorite genre of film, I was old enough to see it for what it was, a movie. Being less terrified, I appreciated the filmmaking a lot more. The direction and acting is exquisitely done and I could see why it was lauded with many awards.

And now, re-watching ‘Platoon’ again almost two decades after that, I am taken aback by how much the movie still makes me feel uneasy. I may be an adult in my fifties, but war is still scary. It always will be. I am however able to somewhat be entertained by the movie thanks to its story as well as the phenomenal cast assembled. Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen are equally impressive in their roles. It is a war movie, but one with a lot of drama and a lot of heart, with all three men performing at the top of their game.

It was also fun (for lack of better word) to watch the “who’s who” ensemble cast in the film. Johnny Depp, Kevin Dillon, Forest Whitaker, Corey Glover and Mark Moses all part of the platoon. All of them are so young and all committed to tell this story. Most of them have had successful careers and I had forgotten that some were even a part of this Oliver Stone classic.

‘Platoon’ is a great movie and one that I can appreciate for what it is, a harrowing look at war. That doesn’t mean that I can watch it over and over again. War is hell and it is shown quite explicitly in this two hour Best Picture winner. I can appreciate that, but I don’t need to endure it all of the time. So it may be another decade or so before I sit down and watch it again.


One Comment Add yours

  1. WPHorde says:

    or less about ‘Platoon’:

    -The acting is marvelous and the story is well-told.
    -The film is very realistic andGroundhog Day-like in its feel.
    -The plot is interesting and the ending is satisfying.
    -The film is well-made and I highly recommend it.


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