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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Oscar Review: Platoon (1986)

Oliver Stone's Oscar winning look at the chaos and mental breakdown of war is a powerful, tragic look at his own experiences in Vietnam.

In Platoon, Private Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) starts off as a fresh in from the world volunteer for the war. Thrown right into duty, with little or no help from the others who have more experience, Taylor does a lot of growing up and gains more experience than he hoped.

With a not so hidden rivalry between SSgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) - both nominated for Best Supporting Actor - Taylor and the rest of the platoon are forced to take sides between the hardened, battle-worn Barnes or capable, if not somewhat reluctant, Elias even as they face the enemy with an inept lieutenant (Mark Moses).

Things quickly get out of control - even more than they already are in a war - when Barnes and his allies take matters into their own hands in a small village, thus intensifying the already hate-filled relationship with Elias.

After a prolonged fire-fight in the jungle, Elias is left alone as the rest of the platoon falls back. Barnes ensures that the men make it out as he goes back to "look" for Elias. It is then that Taylor sees the treachery his superior is capable of, and he must be stopped.
With supporting roles by such great actors as Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Keith David, Johnny Depp, and Dale Dye Platoon has arguably become one of, if not the quintessential Vietnam War film ever made.

Winning Oscars for Best Picture, Director (Stone), Editing, and Sound - along with nominations for Defoe, Berenger, Cinematography, and another for Stone's original screenplay - Platoon received more nominations than any other film that year. Honored by AFI as the #72 thrill and the #83 film overall, this movie is a chilling take on the realities of war and its capacity to bring out sides of people that should never come out.

The haunting theme by Samuel Barber adds a subtle counterpoint to the intensity and violence of the film, making it a memorable, thought-provoking addition to the lineup of Best Picture winners.