I have never been a fan of Oliver Stone’s work. I want to like him, but I am usually can’t get past his pension for wanting to bludgeon his ideals and themes into our heads. His subtlety is nonexistent which is his cardinal sin. His lack of subtlety wrecked the horrible biopic The Doors, the annoying Wall Street, and the trying so hard to be edgy Natural Born Killers. But his lack of subtlety is different when it is thrown in towards a wider area. In the previous three movies I mentioned was trying to thrust his “message” onto the shoulders of two main characters who collapse under the pressure. But with Platoon, there are many people in the film who can take on his themes and run with them. Here is the key to his success in this movie.
Platoon is about an idealistic man who volunteers to be an infantryman during the Vietnam War. He is thrown into a platoon where he is the greenest man. He is not prepared for the mental and physical anguish he is about to endure. He finds solace in his fellow platoon members, only to be thrown in the middle of some inter platoon fighting. More than the Vietnamese, he fears his fellow soldiers.
Oliver Stone obviously had a personal connection to this subject matter. He was that idealistic man in the mid sixties. He was thrown into the jungle and made to fight an almost invisible enemy. He is able to capture here just how harsh the circumstances were and how much mental damage was done to those poor men stuck in a foreign country.Platoon captures the real aspects of war better than other Vietnam War movies during this time.
Although I mostly enjoyed the film, I still did not completely get away from Stone’s lack of subtlety. During the first scene, the young solider steps off of a plane just as bodies are being put in the plane to go back. This visual image was an obvious way to say the only way out of here is in a body bag. There are other problems with the story including some paper-thin characters, confusing battle scenes where I didn’t know what exactly was supposed to be happening and obvious visual cues to signify that they are in Vietnam and war is hell. But despite these things, the emotions and the performances help to solidify this film as the best Oliver Stone movie I have seen.