Some movies are difficult to watch from beginning to end.  For me, Platoon, is one of these movies.  Oliver Stone, wrote and directed this film, released in 1986, and it was the first of his Vietnam War trilogy.  In 1989, he released Born on the Fourth of July and Heaven & Earth in 1993.  Out of the three movies, Platoon is my favorite.  The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, and Best Film Editing.  Furthermore, British television Channel 4 ranks it as the 6th best war film and it is on the 2007 AFI list for top 100 movies.  Oliver Stone used some of his experiences as a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam.  I don’t think a movie this powerful could have been written by someone who hadn’t been there in real life.

When Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) arrives in Vietnam in 1967 it doesn’t take him long to realize that he made a mistake.  Chris dropped out of college to volunteer to fight.  He and several more recruits join up with Bravo Company, who are fighting near the Cambodian border.  Not only is the heat and living conditions horrendous, but he is smack dab in the middle of a private war between two of the officers on the American side.  Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe) takes the young recruit under his wing.  Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes (Tom Berenger) is not so kind.  In fact, he is cruel and manipulative.  The company is divided into two camps, those who follow Elias and those who follow Barnes.  Chris has to choose between these leaders.  During a raid on a village, an illegal killing solidifies the division between Elias and Barnes.  The naïve Chris finds himself struggling for survival out on the battlefield and within his own unit.

The music in the movie is spot on.  As soon as Chris lands in Vietnam, the music sets the tone.  Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” evokes so many emotions.  It is tense and haunting.  For me, this heightened my enjoyment of the film.  In addition, Stone includes some classic tunes from the sixties.  The other day I was reading Caroline’s blog All About War Movies and her review of the The Killing FieldsShe writes that the score felt outdated for her and that ruined the film experience.  I think the score in most films are overlooked.  And yet they can help make or break a film.

Stone’s movie does not sugarcoat war.  He does not have the traditional American hero who saves the day.  If you are expecting a John Wayne type of movie you will be severely disappointed.  This is a gritty tale of how war corrupts innocence.  Even though this was not my first viewing of the film, many of the scenes still made me squirm in my seat.  He shows you the violence, the horror, the crimes, the battles, and the shame of war.  Many of the soldiers have to decide how far they are willing to go to survive.  And how does one keep their sanity when surrounded by insanity?  War is hell.  Stone never loses sight of this, which means that the movie experience is uncomfortable, thought-provoking, and disturbing.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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16 Responses to Platoon

  1. Novroz says:

    Impressive review TBM.
    I have seen it ages ago…and I like how the movie isnt rambo like movie where US army win all the time.
    It is one of the best war movies I have ever seen.

    • TBM says:

      I have to agree with you Novroz, it is one of the best ones that I’ve seen. The Rambo movies can be fun, but they are just for entertainment. I think I’ve only seen the first Rambo movie when I was a kid. Platoon shows you what war is like and it is refreshing that it takes the subject matter seriously and shows the bad side. There are no illusions about war.

  2. T. F. Walsh says:

    Quite enjoyed your review… to be honest I haven’t seen this movie yet… I know… but I’m not a huge war movie fan.

    • TBM says:

      Thanks T.F. I totally understand. War movies can be difficult, especially the ones that really depict what war can be like. This is a hard movie to watch.

  3. Caroline says:

    I still have not reviewed this as it is one of my favourite war movies.
    There is a hero however – and in one of my earlier posts I called him “the sacrificial hero”. That’s pretty much what the movie poster is about and I think it’s no coincidence Dafoe later was in the Temptation of the Christ just like Caviezel, the sacrificial hero in The Thin Red Line was later Christ in the Passion of the Christ. There is more going on in movies than meets the eye, that’s for sure. And, yes, music is part of this.

    • TBM says:

      He is the sacrificial hero–I like that. He was one of the men who was able to keep his sanity among the insanity, for the most part at least. The movie poster is one of the better ones that I’ve seen that evokes so much about the tone of the movie. Interesting connection between Dafoe and Caviezel. I haven’t seen The Thin Red Line in years. I’ll have to watch it again with this nugget of info.

  4. Meanderer says:

    I don’t usually watch films in this genre but I stumbled across Platoon late one night on one of the TV channels many years ago and was gripped. I’ve watched it a few times since and recommend it to people who – like me – wouldn’t normally watch a film of that type. It’s a great film: the story, the acting and the music combine to stir the emotions and also to make one think.

    • TBM says:

      I agree on all counts! Everything in this movie comes together beautifully. And if you aren’t going to watch a lot of war movies, this is a great one to represent the genre. Thanks for the comment!

  5. timelessmoviemagic says:

    Great review. Platoon is one of those films that makes you feel uncomfortable, knowing that these things actually happen and kudos to Stone for portraying the harsh reality of war. Have you ever seen Apocalypse now? Another great war movie.


    • TBM says:

      Thanks! I really give it to Stone for showing the Vietnam War for what it was and using some of his experiences in the war. This film really made me feel for most involved. I saw Apocalypse Now many years ago and I think I was too young to really appreciate it. Thanks for mentioning it. I’ve added it to my rental list. Also I signed up for you blog. I love finding blogs that love movies!

  6. The Hook says:

    Great choice! Probably the best performance Charlie Sheen ever gave!

  7. Fergiemoto says:

    I guess I’ll have to watch it. I really liked “Born on the 4th of July.”

  8. Your first statement gave me the impression that it was not a film that you enjoyed/liked. However, reading through the rest of the review clarified this further – yes, there are movies that do make us squirm in our seats and make us uncomfortable, but this does not mean that they are not worth watching or that they have not been executed beautifully. I have watched quite a number of war films (Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Rambo) – mostly fairly-new flicks as you can see. Platoon, I’ve heard of and seen around, but haven’t had the courage to pick up yet. Will probably borrow it and share with you what my thoughts were.

    • TBM says:

      It is one of those movies that makes you uncomfortable, but it is brilliantly done. And we can’t always avoid things that upset us. War has a lot of causalities and victims and these stories should be known. If you do watch it, I would love to know what you think.

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