I always find it interesting to revisit a film that I watched only once as a kid and see how it holds up years later—particularly if I did in fact enjoy the movie. Does the film stand up to the test of time? Or were my expectations clouded by the transitory appreciations of youth? Platoon was one such movie that I had not seen since its original big screen release. 25 years later, it is still as powerful as ever. My review after the jump.
Platoon, of course, was the first of the new wave of Vietnam War movies that sprouted in the mid-80s, films that could look back upon the conflict with a reflective distance and attempt at reconciliation not possible in earlier films that were too close both temporally and emotionally to the war. It is a film about the sudden and harsh loss of innocence in the face of the brutality of war, about trying to maintain one’s humanity in the face of absolute insanity.
Platoon follows new recruit Chris Tayor (Charlie Sheen)—who volunteered for the war—as he learns the harsh reality of combat, observes and experiences the loss of one’s sense of self, and becomes embroiled in the rival factions of the similarly disillusioned but still “human” Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) and the cold, violent killer Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger).
Acting, directing, story, production values—everything is top-notch, as strong now as I remember it 25 years ago. Something that stands out now in retrospect is what a phenomenal cast Platoon has, not just in the quality of acting (always apparent), but in who is in the film, since many of the actors at the time were just starting out and virtually unknown. Besides the aforementioned three, Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Kevin Dillon, Mark Moses and the then very-young future über star Johnny Depp, just to name a few.
The film has been beautifully restored, with the studio wisely limiting the visual restorations to dust, scratches and the like and not over-saturating the color or removing grain. The roughness of that visual look feels so appropriate for a period war movie that any attempts to make what one would consider a “perfect picture” (and I’ve seen it tried on many an old film) would be entirely counter-productive.
Along with the usual run of deleted scenes, trailers and TV spots, special features include featurettes on the time period of the film (“Snapshot in Time: 1967-1968”), the making of (“Creating the ‘Nam”) and the film’s legacy (“Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon”); “documentaries”—really just featurettes under another name—about the war itself (“One War, Many Stories” and “Preparing for ‘Nam”); and vignettes of interesting tidbits recorded for the documentaries/featurettes that didn’t quite fit into the subject matter of the above. Most interesting are those that deal directly with the war itself and the personal accounts of those who fought in it.
Platoon—brilliant then, brilliant now. The new 25th anniversary edition Blu-Ray is a worthy way to revisit a modern classic.