My review for IMDB from 1998

10 04 2013

I still get flashbacks of this movie.

D.Mason in the earlier [IMDB] comment wrote about the silence, while people were leaving the auditory. That’s what I remember too. And I remember faces of some viewers as they went out — looking as they were witnesses of some terrible accident. Never before and never after I saw such a reaction to a movie. It was spring 1988, and the theatre was in Poland.

Next thing I remember was my own flash of fear during the first jungle sequence, as if the tranquility of the scene was a prelude to some unbearable horror. I thought (like Chris Taylor pointed out in his monologue) that I’d made a mistake coming, not sure what I actually meant: the theatre or the jungle. For there was no screen, no auditory anymore. I was on the other side “humping the boonies”.

After the first viewing I was so overwhelmed by the emotional impact of Platoon that I didn’t really got the plot. I was just like Chris, not knowing what was going on, witnessing the civil war between Elias and Barnes, that seemed to have its roots somewhere in the past, far beyond the story told in the film.

For usually I’m not so eager to analyze what I don’t understand, particularly when it’s only a movie. But this time it was different. I just had to see it again. And again…

…to find out that beyond the apparent simplicity of the storyline, there is a huge space for interpretations. And the closer you look, the more you see…

Furthermore – what IMO makes “Platoon” to stand out among the most movies of the genre (back in the 1980s, but now even more) is the way of showing violence: it is not just an element of decoration here. It means something, one doesn’t want it to happen, no matter on which side the victim is. Or have you ever heard screams of protest in the audience after somebody was killed in Rambo?

I didn’t know much about the war in Vietnam back then, and couldn’t tell if Platoon was historically accurate. But for me the movie’s power lays not so much in the accuracy itself, but in the overwhelming IMPRESSION of authenticity. I never saw anyone of the cast on the screen before and it made the feeling even stronger – they were just anonymous faces in the midst of war and madness.

On the other side – not having much other information on Vietnam War than this movie, for a while I was near to believe it was the one and only, absolute truth about it. Now I know it isn’t. It cannot be, as Schindler’s List cannot be the whole truth about WWII, or Dead Ringers is not a whole truth of twins or doctors. Even though there are certain autobiographic elements, the story didn’t happen the way it is shown, and as far as I know, Stone never claimed it did. One can tell a good story or a true story – life is seldom dramatic enough.

In America Platoon still seems to divide people. There is so much arguing about it, charged with so extreme emotions that sometimes I fear, people would start to shoot each other if they had a chance… Which, ironically, underlines the movie’s statement about “the enemy in us”.

As for me: still, after 11 years, Barbers Adagio for Strings makes my heart beat faster. I can hear a crying child or helicopters flying by, and get a flashback of that very special mix of emotions the movie had triggered in me. Isn’t it enough to say this movie is something special?








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