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Platoon (1986)

Platoon Special Edition DVD

The first casualty of war is innocence

Directed by:

Oliver Stone

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 110 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

“Tag ‘em, bag ‘em, and don’t leave nothin’ for the dinks.” The lazy grammar, near-unfathomable slang and awkward xenophobia dictates that this movie can clearly only have one setting – ‘Nam (that’s “Vietnam”). It’s 1967, it’s wartime, and it’s director Oliver Stone’s finest couple of hours. I jobby you not.

Stone – who wrote as well as directed – brings us not so much a standardised Hollywood plot as a two hour collection of incidents, jumbled together to spring up at any given moment as, indeed, they would in a real-life war scenario. Similarly, there aren’t any heroes among the hotchpotch of characters – at least not in your typical movie land sense. Sure, the guys on show are fighting for their country – but the spotless morals and chiselled jaws we’ve come to expect from our US heroes are left at home. There’s an emphasis on the fact that each of the characters, though fictional, are very human – and, as in the real world, they’re none of them perfect. Particularly not that mad one who beats up the Vietnamese bloke with the end of his rifle.

There is a main protagonist, and he’s Private Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), a wet-behind-the-ears newbie in the field. His slightly cheesy letters to his dear old granny serve as our narration through events, many of which focus on the growing tensions between his two commanding officers Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Elias (Willem Dafoe). When the pair aren’t fighting the enemy, they’re invariably fighting each other, and fans of either actor can rest assured there are plenty of opportunities to revel in their gleeful over-acting.

Sometimes tense, sometimes touching and sometimes shocking, this snapped up four of 1987’s Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture (okay, so it doesn’t sound all that impressive in the aftermath of The Return of the King’s clean sweep, but it’s still a decent haul). Revisiting it through this special edition DVD release, it still looks fresh and certainly hasn’t lost any of its impact. Of course, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and, as is the tendency with the war genre, its all-out seriousness leaves it teetering on the verge of pretentious self-importance. But hey, with Johnny Depp, Tony Todd, Keith David and Forest Whitaker also among the cast, there won’t be ANYONE out there who can’t appreciate it if only for how well it lends itself to a good ol’ fashioned game of “Where Are They Now?”.

It's Got: A whiff of corruption in the air – or is that just REALY damp socks? Either way, something stinks.

It Needs: To be watched with the subtitle button on your remote control to hand – occasional parts of the dialogue can be tricky to make out

DVD Extras Choice of audio commentary from either military supervisor Captain Dale Dye of the Stonemeister, 50-minute ‘Tour of the Inferno’ making-of documentary, three TV spots, stills galleries, original theatrical trailer DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill, M*A*S*H, Saving Private Ryan, Tears of the Sun, The Deer Hunter, Windtalkers

Summary

Not for Nam-by pambies (“Nam”, geddit? As in VietNAM, you see? No? Oh, just forget it).

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