Platoon (1986) reviewed by Victoria Baschzok

14 09 2008

found HERE

The lady definitely didn’t get it. I wonder what movie she was watching…

cudz.jpg picture by alveni[Platoon] was made up of a young, naive and well-intentioned officer who commanded young, well-intentioned soldiers, including the naive hero, Chris. The source of power in the group was a blondish, pale, beautiful, gentle yet strong and wise sergeant. These people all believed in the American dream and saw themselves as victims of injustice. huh.gif picture by alveni The source of power in the company was also a sergeant – a senior staff sergeant. However, he was dark-skinnedhuh.gif picture by alveni, cynical, scarred and cunning. The first represented the American ideal; the second was the devil. To be more exact, the second represented a constant in American history – the traitor,  Benedict Arnold in modern dress, the man who believes that men of principle are weak, the force of evil within each person and therefore within the nation. His cynicism and crude interpretation of reality enable him to trick others into temporarily betraying the American dreamhuh.gif picture by alveni

A negative review…

14 09 2008

…of Platoon found HERE. I see, the reviewer didn’t like the symbolic underlining of the movie, but at least he/she doesn’t call it leftist propaganda made by a jerk and conspiracy theorist, lol. I kind of like the John Wayne comparison.

cudz.jpg picture by alveniRather than being about the Vietnam war as it really was, this film is basically an exercise in what America wants the vietnam war to be. Despite endless comments to the contrary, there is nothing “realistic” about the film. The characters and plot are almost cartoonish. Its like a postmodernist John Wayne movie with different politics.In real life, things don’t break down into “good” soldiers and “evil” soldiers. Real life and real people are about shades of grey. The war also changed over time. Oliver Stone served in 1967 but the movie is often showing situations that were more out of 1971 with which he had no personal experience.

What a real film about vietnam would show is ordinary people doing a tough job day after day and doing the best they could. Its not about archtype evil officers, good/evil “father” figures and long political monologues. 

About the only thing this film got right were the uniforms.

Oliver Stone’s Vietnam by Richard Lowry

13 09 2008

American Studies 2000

Actually, one of the few reviews dealing with both Illias and Moby Dick parallel as well as.

read the whole article

The civil war among the unit is set up using traditional mythological symbols. Elias and Barnes can be viewed as conflicting mythological gods, with differing views of the world and war. Stone has said that the two characters can be viewed as Achilles (Barnes) and Hector (Elias), both characters from Trojan War mythology. These comparisons are easily seen. Barnes has the same angered disposition as Achilles, and Elias has the same problems of conscious as Hector, fighting the Trojan War which he has deemed a losing battle.

Stone goes farther with literary references in presenting the character of Barnes as a modern incarnation of Captain Ahab from Moby Dick. In voice over, Taylor says that “through him, our Captain Ahab, we would set things right again”(…) To accentuate the reference, Stone has given Barnes a scar down the side of his face, exactly like one that appears on the face of Ahab in the Melville story. His actions also resemble Ahab. Ahab is obsessed with revenge, as is Barnes in his determination to defeat not only the Vietnamese, but also Elias for control of the squad.

Stone portrays Taylor’s trip to Vietnam as a descend into the underworld, a theme that appears in a number of stories from mythology. The movie is bookended by scenes of Taylor’s arrival and departure from Vietnam. It begins with his helicopter landing, literally representing a descent into the new world. (…) Likewise, the film ends with his departure on the helicopter, being lifted to safety from the underworld. Stone also includes a scene where fellow soldier Rhah asks Taylor “What are you doing in the underworld?”

Hmm… right, it is the only time someone uses the name “Underworld” in the movie. We (viewers) tend to name it this way only because of what Rhah says. Stone uses the name in the script to describe the place, but it appears in a dialogue only once.

This we know already…

The most obvious symbol in the film is Sergeant Elias as a Christ figure. Barnes calls Elias a water walker, an obvious reference to the Bible tale where Jesus proves his power by walking across water. More explicitly, the character of sergeant O’Neill, another military officer portrayed by John C. McGinley, says that Elias thinks that “he is Jesus f**king Christ.” Elias’ status as a Christ figure is most unquestionably presented during Elias’ dramatic death sequence.

Robert Hemphill’s review of Platoon

7 09 2008

Here is an review at, it’s signed with “a Customer”, but from the content it’s clear it was written by Robert Hemphill. 

Stridently Antiwar Propaganda; NOT the Way It Actually Was!, January 26, 1999

QUOTE: Speaking from the experience of two full tours in Vietnam and as Oliver Stone’s company commander during his service in 25th Infantry Division (Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry), I take serious exception to his portrayal of our soldiers as spaced-out, cruel dopeheads who routinely smoked dope, committed atrocities and tried to kill each other. My soldiers — and soldiers in Vietnam in general — were not like that at all. During that time, Stone was a good soldier, attested to by the facts that, to the best of my knowlege, I never had to punish him, and that he departed Bravo on 15 Jan 1968 by medical evac helicopter after being seriously wounded trying to take a bunker with two other men. His radicalism seems to have emerged after his tour in Vietnam. Whatever the reason, this movie does a gross disservice to the vast majority of American troops who went to Vietnam as ordered by their government, did the job given them the best they could, and returned home to become normal, productive citizens. I won’t say that unsavory events did not occur in Vietnam — as they have in every war — but they were not typical. For example, My Lai occurred, a criminal act committed by a small group of soldiers who should have been soundly punished as the criminals they were. However, My Lai was an aberation, although movies like “Platoon” play it up as the norm. To give Stone his due, the really good part of the movie was the feeling of being there which he recreated: the heat and dehydration, humping heavy packs, red ant dances; the attempt to conduct an ambush while fighting fatigue, rain, mosquitoes, and having the VC sneak up on you because your lookout went to sleep. Those things were very real, and Stone did these better than anyone else. Stone ruins the film for those of us in Bravo Company (identified at the beginning of the film) — and real Vietnam vets in general — by throwing into this real ambiance all the antiwar images and rumors ever associated with Vietnam created by those violently opposed to the war.Stone says that he is a dramatist, and that he changes and shapes events to suit his views of those events; he says that he is not a documentarian, as I am. I guess that means that I record the true events, while he takes history and twists and shapes it into his kind of fiction. Therefore, if you want to learn the real history of Bravo Company during the time Stone and I were in the unit, and the truth about America’s Vietnam soldiers and veterans in general, I recommend that you read two books: my book, “Platoon: Bravo Company” and B.G. Burkett’s book, “Stolen Valor.” Don’t be afraid to find out the truth — you owe it to those who served and died there.

My post with the review of Hemphill’s book

A New York Times article from March ’87

8 08 2008

The article points out that even if “Platoon” was the first in the cue of “realistic Vietnam movies” it didn’t cause the wave. The other Vietnam movies were already in production as Platoon won the Oscars.

By ALJEAN HARMETZ, March 16, 1987

read the whole article

QUOTE: The effect of ”Platoon” on future films is not dependent on its winning Oscars. Because of the movie’s commercial success, more scripts about the Vietnam War are being looked at by the studios. But the making of a realistic movie about the Vietnam War is also part of a change in American attitudes. The script for ”Platoon” was written 11 years ago and peddled from studio to studio for more than half a decade. The cultural changes that enabled ”Platoon” to be made have already triggered other films. It usually takes between 18 months and two years for a movie to go from beginning idea to finished film; Vietnam is an idea whose time came about 15 months ago.

Platoon from a Marxist’s POV

27 07 2008

Hah! Again, something pretty original!
by Scott H. (1987)

You can surely argue if this was true or not:

QUOTE: You see, the bad guys in Platoon understood something very basic that the “good guys” did not: The Vietnamese people were against them. Not just the NVA and the Viet Cong; but the whole people, including the women and children. If you thought it was all right to kill the men, but not the women and the children, then you were stupid, because they were all trying to kill you!

But this is surely a good observation:

QUOTE: It is also true that the “hero” of the movie does shoot the most repulsive character, the scarred U.S. sergeant. But even here, it was primarily an act of revenge for the killing of the “good” hippy sergeant. Did the hero think to do this after the genocidal killings of Vietnamese peasants in the village? No. He was upset, but they were “only” Vietnamese after all. Did he think to also shoot the Lieutenant and Captain who were ordering them out into the field to kill “gooks” in the first place? No. (To my mind even the most progressive U.S. soldiers in this movie are also repulsive.)

Finally someone giving more substance to the objection that Platoon shows only one side of the coin. Funny, I’ve read that argument a thousand times before and wasn’t convinced. It must be something in the choice of words, right now it is quite hard to arue with this:

QUOTE: Not only is the movie from the point of view of the average American soldier; we learn to know and empathize with American soldiers only. It is true we see some Vietnamese children crying as their mother is killed by the U.S. soldiers. But no Vietnamese person in this movie has a name or a personality.

Even from the point of view of the movie makers, let alone from that of the more reactionary characters in it, the Vietnamese people are being subtly dehumanized. Because we are not allowed to get to know them we find it hard to care for them as much as we do the Americans. The words for this sort of thing are racism and national chauvinism.

There is no way you can have a truthful, honest movie about Vietnam which does not itself really think of Vietnamese as people, and portray them as such.

Of course in a Vietnamese movie the Viewer would sympathize with Vietnamese people and of course it would be natural. But, I think we maybe should just keep this fact in mind.

Another Load of Reviews

26 07 2008

‘Platoon’ Grapples With Vietnam
 by Michael Norman

QUOTE: As a story, a narrative, ”Platoon” borrows from the long tradition of war literature. Here is the classic warrior myth, the innocent who goes off to battle and comes back with what he believes is the wisdom of the ages. Here is war corrupting those who take part in it. Here is the survivor as hero. And, finally, here is the awful result of technology turned to destruction. The same story has been told in different eras by Stephen Crane and Erich Maria Remarque and Norman Mailer.

Mr. Stone was born in France and raised in New York City. In 1965, he dropped out of Yale during his freshman year and, filled with the words of Joseph Conrad, set out for the Orient and adventure. He paid his way to Saigon and took a job in the city’s Chinese district teaching school at the Free Pacific Institute. ”I was 18,” he said. ”My father treated me like a child and I wanted to prove I was a man.”
Six months later he took a job in the engine room of a merchant ship run, he said, ”by characters right out of the 19th century – the fat captain, the soldier who worked for the C.I.A., the strong bull of an engineer.” He switched ships, sailed through a hurricane to home and in 1966 took up temporary residence in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he began a 1,400-page autobiographical novel called ”Child’s Night Dream.” A few months later, he returned to Yale, but not to class. He kept writing his novel and flunking his courses. In 1967, he tried to get his work published and was rejected.(…)

(…)what seems to be missing from Mr. Stone’s film, perhaps what he never came to know – [is] the passion of comradeship.
There is little kinship for the men of ”Platoon.” They may serve together, but there is no sense of self-sacrifice among them, no loyalty and no love. It is thus not surprising that many of Mr. Stone’s characters come across as coldblooded killers. ”Comradeship among killers is terribly difficult,” wrote Mr. Gray. And it is on this point, found so often in the art and memoirs of war, that a great many men will break with Mr. Stone and find his film lacking.

…and I have to agree with it to a certain extend. There is a kind of friendship among the Heads, and certainly a friendship between Chris and King, but compared with Hamburger Hill there is not much of brotherhood-in-arms in the movie.


 ‘Platoon’ Finds New Life in the Old War Movie
 by Vincent Canby, January 11, 1986

QUOTE: ‘I kept thinking about all the kids who got wiped out by 17 years of war movies before coming to Vietnam to get wiped out for good,” Michael Herr remembers in ”Dispatches,” his book of Vietnam memoirs published in 1977.

”Most combat troops,” he goes on, ”stopped thinking of the war as an adventure after their first few firefights, but there were always the ones who couldn’t let that go. . . A lot of correspondents weren’t much better. We’d all seen too many movies, stayed too long in Television City, years of media glut had made certain connections difficult.

”. . . even after you knew better you couldn’t avoid the ways in which things got mixed, the war itself with those parts of the war that were just like the movies, just like ‘The Quiet American’ or ‘Catch-22’. . . just like all that combat footage from television. . .”

(…)Whether the images are 30 feet tall or three inches, movies and television work on us in similar ways. The images are drugs whose side effects aren’t immediately recognized. They do inform us, but with whatever ”truth” they hold to be self-evident, which may be Rambo’s or Walter Cronkite’s.

(…)Movies and television can make the wildest fiction look like fact, and lethal facts look as harmless as fiction. Even at their most reasonable, movies and television must distort their subjects to the extent that they find esthetic order in chaos, conferring on events a romantic vision or, at least, a comprehensible overview. They put at a safe distance those unmentionable, unrecognized things that otherwise are allowed to enter our minds only as nightmares.

(…) It’s something of a circle. As the film maker’s imagination shapes his movies, those movies shape our imaginations. Thus, as Mr. Herr writes, the war itself gets mixed with those parts of the war that are just like the movies.

(…) ‘Platoon” finds in the experiences of the members of a single platoon of soldiers some equivalent to just about every horror story we’ve ever read about Vietnam, including the My Lai massacre. This is the license that can be granted to a film that – until its final few minutes – so rigorously keeps its eye at ground level.



Unwanted ‘Platoon’ Finds Success as U.S. Examines the Vietnam War
by Alejan Harmetz, Feb. 1987

QUOTE: ”If ‘Platoon’ had been released 10 years ago, people would have said, ‘Don’t remind us of our mistake,’ ” said the president of marketing and distribution at Lorimar, Ashley Boone. ”The same thing would have happened if ‘Gandhi’ had been made seven or eight years after Gandhi died. No one would have watched the movie or cared. A lot of things with a historical background are too painful to address when they’re fresh.”

‘Occasionally in this business you feel you’ve got something very important,” said Orion’s executive vice president of marketing, Charles Glenn, in explanation. The movie was originally sold as Oliver Stone’s story, with what the industry calls ”reader ads,” advertisments with a large block of copy. There were three or four Polaroid snapshots of Mr. Stone in uniform. The copy told of his being wounded twice and winning a Bronze Star, and of his making a movie about ”men he knew and fought with in the country they could not win.”

”The ads legitimized the picture,” Mr. Glenn said. They made it the equivalent of many of the Vietnam War books that had suddenly begun to sell so well, the real story of the common soldier. And discussion of the movie began to appear on editorial pages of newspapers and on television news programs.


A whole gallery of posters plus some known pictures — at least they have decent scanns to pick 🙂

Platoon: 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
by Judge Ryan Keefer // June 5th, 2006

QUOTE: In their quest to get things done right, the soldiers in Platoon are clearly not your father’s war film soldiers. They drink, they smoke, and they do things that normal people would find repulsive, so that they could find relief from the stress and hell of jungle combat. And the wealth of recognizable talent provides some faces that you would know well. And when some of those faces disappear, as part of a then-rapidly growing butcher’s bill of war casualties, the viewer has a vested interest. Those losses are magnified even further with how Stone presents each soldier, from downtime to rock and roll. The platoon’s losses are our losses.

Platoon: Ultimate Edition – DVD Review

Tom Berenger, who had taken on the sense of responsibility – though not ruthless brutality – of his character Sergeant Barnes, lined up his ‘troops’ to tell them he felt, “This could be one of the great movies. It’s unfortunate if it’s too early in your life, because there’s never anywhere else to go.” A point his subsequent career proves…

sadly so…

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