Chris Taylor is a young, naive American who gives up college and volunteers for combat in Vietnam. Upon arrival, he quickly discovers that his presence is quite nonessential, and is considered insignificant to the other soldiers, as he has not fought for as long as the rest of them and felt the effects of combat. Chris has two non-commissioned officers, the ill-tempered and indestructible Staff Sergeant Robert Barnes and the more pleasant and cooperative Sergeant Elias Grodin. A line is drawn between the two NCOs and a number of men in the platoon when an illegal killing occurs during a village raid. As the war continues, Chris himself draws towards psychological meltdown. And as he struggles for survival, he soon realizes he is fighting two battles, the conflict with the enemy and the conflict between the men within his platoon.Written by
Platoon focuses on the moral decay of the soldiers in the most unpopular war in modern American history
Many great war films of the Vietnam conflict are centered around these themes of blurred morality and the uselessness of war, and Oliver Stone's Platoon is among the most well known. Stone, who wrote and directed the film and also served as an infantryman in Vietnam, first rose to fame for his war films that dramatized the infamous Cold War conflict. The main premise of his magnum opus are the inner conflicts within US forces deployed to southeast Asia, rather than the actual physical conflicts between them and the Communist-allied Vietnamese forces. More broadly, Platoon analyzes the "duality of man" concept that has been studied in numerous other works, from fellow Vietnam War films like Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Apocalypse Now (1979), all the way back to the latter's source material and inspiration in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Platoon focuses on the moral decay of soldiers in American units, and how this contributes to their inability to fight their Vietnamese enemies. Charlie Sheen sums up this theme with his on-the-nose voiceover, "We did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves... and the enemy was in us."
Vietnam War-movies tend to be even harder to watch than most war flicks, as the lines between the "heroes" and "villains" are blurred more than in any other dramatized period of warfare in recent human history. In wars like World War II, which are widely known for being as black and white as military conflicts have become, the contrasting features between the heroic forces we are meant to root for and their opposing enemy platoons are well defined. That is almost never the case with the United States-North Vietnamese/Vietcong conflict in Vietnam during the overarching Cold War.
That is not to say that most wars throughout human history have not been many shades of grey, with the winners and losers not always corresponding with the righteous and evil. But because of the guerrilla nature and infamous legacy of the Vietnam War itself - namely, the immense public protest against American involvement - the Vietnam War remains by far the most unpopular war in modern American history. With that said, most of the film is fantastic, from the aforementioned narrative to the grim lightning of the southeast Asian jungles that emphasize the film's tone, to the poignant, melancholic score.
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