David Halberstamm on Oliver Stone’s “Platoon”

1 04 2008

a review written by David Halberstamm, a guy who definitely knew what he was writing about:

Quote: It is critical in understanding ”Platoon” to know when it took place. It is the time of Tet, and it comes at the end of a vast series of miscalculations on the part of the American architects of the war(…) The young Americans, semi-stranded here in a bitter and costly struggle on the Cambodian border – in truth, military orphans of a great and distant nation – are the ones who are paying for all these miscalculations in a war that the rest of the country is turning from.

By this time, more and more of the grunts are draftees instead of volunteers, and most of them have sensed that the war cannot be won, and that the only remaining cause is survival; that is the moment which Oliver Stone has captured here, and he has done it brilliantly. ”Platoon” always feels right. The acting is uniformly exceptional. Some people have complained about his allegorical use of the two sergeants. I have no problem with them: both seem real enough to me. Barnes (Tom Berenger) as the sergeant of darkness, is simply extraordinary. When he says, ”I am reality,” I believe him, and if I were a member of that platoon, I would alternately loathe him and figure he was my only ticket home; Elias (Willem Dafoe), as the sergeant of light, seems even more haunting, an idealized portrait of human sweetness wasting away in the dark. If they are not who we are, they are certainly who we can become.


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