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Platoon

Year: 1986
Production Co: Orion Pictures Corporation
Director: Oliver Stone
Producer: Arnold Kopelson
Writer: Oliver Stone
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Depp, Keith David, John C McGinley, Kevin Dillon
The definitive anti-war movie, All Quiet on the Western Front for the media age and an interesting historical piece now despite being only a little over 20 years old as I write this.

The motif of America struggling with the insanity, inhumanity and mass slaughter of the Vietnam War is interesting because now, in the post Lord of the Rings/September 11 era, battle and war is something glorious, our soldiers revered for doing their part in holding back the black/Arabic/Godless/insert-appropriate-minority hordes threatening our jobs and our women.

Stone's message is distinctly out of fashion right now, war being a bad thing that makes killers and victims on both sides, most of them impoverished or middle class boys carrying out the oligarchic aims of the aristocracy.

But that's precisely what he wanted to say, so he depicts American soldiers as at war with themselves and each other as they are with the mostly-invisible NVA. This is the Vietnam at the opposite end of the war from Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers, when the US was riding a wave of adventurism and justice.

The war of Platoon was already lost, the soldiers losing themselves to drugs, infighting and madness, many of them so dehumanised they were indiscriminate murders ready to slay anyone they came across with little or no provocation ('see that fuckin' head come apart man?' as Kevin Dillon drawls after opening the skull of a villager whose only crime was hiding).

Chris/Stone (Sheen) is us, on a voyage of discovery about the hellhole he shares with these psychopaths. The other characters are more or less a comment on the state of play from Stone's memories of his involvement in the real war - from the opposing camps and black/white divide within the army to the desperation of repeated tours and the ever-present threat of a horrible death in any number of ways.

Looking back after this many years, it's easy to see corners were cut and cracks show in the production, but it's one of those films that rises up above itself. Even if you can't remember much of the dialogue, characters or plot it's become synonymous with a film movement and America's reconciling its own history.

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