Director: Oliver Stone

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe

Year: 1986

I made the mistake of watching Casualties of War before I watched Platoon, and it’s like watching Thin Red Line before you watch Saving Private Ryan; you see crap, you think maybe it’s not so bad, then you watch how it should have been made, and you realize just how ridiculously horrible that crap was, in hindsight.  Anyway, all that to say that Platoon is the superior Vietnam War movie, obviously, and it’s not even close.  This is an actual film; the other was a mistake.

New grunt Chris Taylor is thrown into a veteran platoon and marched into the jungles of Vietnam without any helpful information or hope of coming out alive.  Most of the soldiers are keeping their heads down, trying to survive, not getting close to the fresh meat, because they know that any moment could be the last for any of them.  With two different sergeants in command, with two distinct viewpoints on the conflict, Taylor will have to decide what kind of man and solider he wants to be, and what moral compass to follow with all goes to hell.

First, the problems, because they are real and this is not a perfect film, despite the gold we’ve painted on it.  Charlie Sheen can’t act, period, and his narration might even be worse than his character, if that’s possible, so let’s get that out of the way.  Were you to take Taylor out of the film, it might very well be perfection, but we’ll never know, Sheen ruined that.  Also, the main music is used too many times; it’s powerful, that’s why it’s relied on, but it comes up too often, and ought to have been used more sparingly.  Otherwise, this is a spectacular war film, a real, raw, transportative, excellent time capsule, and a way to help us understand.  Some of the filmmaking is awe-inspiring, some of the scenes legendary, just ignore the main actor, if you can, and you will see something very special.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆