Platoon (film)

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Platoon
Platoon posters 86.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Oliver Stone
Produced by Arnold Kopelson
Written by Oliver Stone
Starring
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Edited by Claire Simpson
Production
company
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
December 19, 1986
Running time
120 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[2]
Box office $138.5 million (North America)[2]

Platoon is a 1986 American war film written and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Charlie Sheen. It is the first film of a trilogy of Vietnam War films directed by Stone, followed by Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Heaven & Earth (1993).

Stone wrote the screenplay based upon his experiences as a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam, to counter the vision of the war portrayed in John Wayne's The Green Berets. Platoon was the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War.[3]

Platoon won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1986; it also won Best Director for Oliver Stone, as well as Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing. In 1998, the American Film Institute placed Platoon at #83 in their "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies" poll.

Plot[edit]

In 1965, Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) has dropped out of college, enlisted in the U.S. Army, and volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam. Assigned to Bravo Company in the 25th Infantry Division, near the Cambodian border, he is quickly disillusioned by the difficult environment, and his enthusiasm for the war declines. One night, his unit is set upon by a group of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers, who retreat after a brief confrontation. New recruit Gardner is killed while another soldier, Tex, is maimed by friendly fire. Taylor is scorned by the cruel Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger) for falling asleep during watch, after being implicated by one of the veterans. Taylor eventually gains acceptance from a tight-knit group in his unit whose members socialize in a bunker clubhouse at their base. He finds mentors in King (Keith David) and the loyal Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe), and becomes close friends with other soldiers, including Lerner (Johnny Depp), Rhah (Francesco Quinn), Crawford (Chris Pedersen) and Manny (Corkey Ford).

During a patrol, Manny is found mutilated and tied to a post, while two other soldiers, Sal (Richard Edson) and Sandy (J. Adam Glover), are killed by a booby trap in a bunker. As tension mounts, the platoon reaches a nearby village where they discover a supply and weapons cache. Using Lerner as a translator, Barnes interrogates the village chief to determine if his people have been aiding the NVA. Despite the villagers' adamant denials, Barnes coldly shoots and kills the chief's wife. He holds the chief's daughter at gunpoint, threatening to kill her as well, if the villagers do not reveal what they know. Elias arrives and is furious with Barnes' behavior. A physical altercation between the duo ensues, which is ended by the timid platoon commander, Lieutenant Wolfe (Mark Moses), who orders the men to secure the villagers, destroy the enemy supplies, and burn the village down. As they leave, Taylor stops a group of soldiers from gang raping two girls.

When the unit returns to base, Captain Harris (Dale Dye) advises that if he finds out that an illegal killing took place, a court-martial will be ordered. Barnes worries that Elias will testify against him. On their next patrol, the platoon is ambushed and pinned down in a firefight, in which numerous soldiers are wounded, including Lerner and Big Harold (Forest Whitaker). Lerner is taken back to the helicopter landing area, while Lieutenant Wolfe calls in a artillery strike and the incorrect coordinates he provides results in a number of friendly fire casualties. Elias takes Taylor, Crawford, and Rhah to intercept flanking enemy troops. Barnes orders the rest of the platoon to retreat and goes back into the jungle to find Elias' group. Barnes finds Elias alone and shoots him, then returns and tells the others that Elias was killed by the enemy. While the platoon is extracting via helicopter, they glimpse Elias, mortally wounded, emerging from the treeline and being chased by a group of North Vietnamese soldiers, who kill him. Noting Barnes' anxious manner, Taylor realizes that he gave a false account of Elias' wounding.

At the base, Taylor becomes convinced that Barnes is responsible for Elias' death. He attempts to talk his group into fragging the sergeant in retaliation when Barnes, having overheard them, enters the room and mocks them. Taylor assaults the intoxicated Barnes but is quickly overpowered. Barnes cuts Taylor near his eye with a push dagger before departing.

The platoon is sent back to the combat area to maintain defensive positions, where Taylor shares a foxhole with Francis. That night, a major NVA assault occurs, and the defensive lines are broken. Much of the platoon, including Bunny, Junior, and Wolfe, are killed in the ensuing battle. During the attack, an NVA sapper, armed with explosives, rushes into battalion headquarters, making a suicide attack and killing everyone inside. Meanwhile, Captain Harris, the company commander, orders his air support to expend all remaining ordnance inside his perimeter. During the chaos, Taylor encounters Barnes, who is wounded and driven to insanity. Just as Barnes is about to kill Taylor, both men are knocked unconscious by an air strike.

Taylor regains consciousness the following morning, picks up an enemy Type 56 rifle, and finds Barnes, who orders Taylor to call a medic. Seeing that Taylor won't help, Barnes tells him to pull the trigger. Taylor shoots and kills Barnes. He sits and waits until reinforcements arrive and find him. Francis, who survived the battle unharmed, deliberately stabs himself in the leg and reminds Taylor that because they have been twice wounded, they can return home. The helicopter carries the two men away. Overwhelmed, Taylor sobs as he glares down at multiple craters full of corpses, both friend and foe.

Cast[edit]

Development[edit]

"Vietnam was really visceral, and I had come from a cerebral existence: study... working with a pen and paper, with ideas. I came back really visceral. And I think the camera is so much more ... that's your interpreter, as opposed to a pen."

—Oliver Stone[4]

After his tour of duty in Vietnam ended in 1968, Oliver Stone wrote a screenplay called Break, a semi-autobiographical account detailing his experiences with his parents and his time in Vietnam. Stone's active duty service resulted in a "big change" in how he viewed life and the war. Although the screenplay Break was never produced, he later used it as the basis for Platoon.[4]

In a 2010 interview with The Times, Stone discussed having killed a Viet Cong soldier during the war, and how he worked this event into his early screenplay.[5] Break featured several characters who were the seeds of those he developed in Platoon. The script was set to music from The Doors; Stone sent the script to Jim Morrison in the hope he would play the lead. (Morrison never responded, but his manager returned the script to Stone shortly after Morrison's death; Morrison had the script with him when he died in Paris.) Although Break was never produced, Stone decided to attend film school.[4]

After writing several other screenplays in the early 1970s, Stone worked with Robert Bolt on the screenplay, The Cover-up (it was not produced). Bolt's rigorous approach rubbed off on Stone. The younger man used his characters from the Break screenplay and developed a new screenplay, which he titled The Platoon. Producer Martin Bregman attempted to elicit studio interest in the project, but was not successful. But, based on the strength of his writing in Platoon, Stone was hired to write the screenplay for Midnight Express (1978).

The film was a critical and commercial success, as were some other Stone films at the time, but most studios were still reluctant to finance The Platoon, because it was about the unpopular Vietnam War. After the release of The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, the studios then cited the perception that these films were considered the pinnacle of the Vietnam War film genre as reasons not to make The Platoon.[4]

Stone responded by attempting to break into mainstream direction via the easier-to-finance horror genre, but The Hand failed at the box office. Stone began to think The Platoon would never be made. Stone cowrote Year of the Dragon for a lower-than-usual fee of $200,000, on the condition from producer Dino De Laurentiis would next produce The Platoon. (Dragon was directed by Stone's friend Michael Cimino, who had done Deer Hunter.)

De Laurentiis secured financing for The Platoon, but he struggled to find a distributor. Because De Laurentiis had already spent money sending Stone to the Philippines to scout for locations, he decided to keep control of the film's script until he was repaid.[4] Then Stone's script for what would become Salvador was passed to John Daly of British production company Hemdale. Once again, this was a project that Stone had struggled to secure financing for, but Daly loved the script and was prepared to finance both Salvador and The Platoon. Stone shot Salvador first, before turning his attention to what was by now called Platoon.[4]

Production[edit]

Platoon was filmed on the island of Luzon in the Philippines starting in February 1986. The production was almost canceled because of the political upheaval in the country, due to then-dictator Ferdinand Marcos. With the help of well-known Asian producer Mark Hill, the shoot commenced, as scheduled, two days after Marcos fled the country.[6] Shooting lasted 54 days and cost $6.5 million. The production made a deal with the Philippine military for the use of military equipment.[4] The film employed Vietnamese refugees living in the Philippines to act in different roles as Vietnamese in the film.[7] Filming was done chronologically.[8]

Scenes were shot in Mount Makiling (for the forest scenes), Cavite (for the river and village scenes), and Villamor air base near Manila.[9][10]

James Woods, who had starred in Stone's film Salvador, was offered a part in Platoon. He turned it down, later saying he "couldn't face going into another jungle with [Stone]". Upon arrival in the Philippines, the cast was sent on a two-week intensive training course, during which they had to dig foxholes and were subject to forced marches and nighttime "ambushes," which used special-effects explosions. Stone said that he was trying to break them down, "to mess with their heads so we could get that dog-tired, don't give a damn attitude, the anger, the irritation... the casual approach to death".[4] Willem Dafoe said "the training was very important to the making of the film," adding to its authenticity and strengthening the camaraderie developed among the cast: "By the time you got through the training and through the film, you had a relationship to the weapon. It wasn’t going to kill people, but you felt comfortable with it."[11]

Stone makes a cameo appearance as the battalion commander of 3/22 Infantry in the final battle, which was based on the historic New Year's Day Battle of 1968 which he had taken part in while on duty in Vietnam. Dale Dye, who played Bravo company's commander Captain Harris, is a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran who also served as the film's technical advisor.[12]

Soundtrack[edit]

Music used in the film includes Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane, and "Okie From Muskogee" by Merle Haggard. During a scene in the "Underworld," the soldiers sing along to "The Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, which was also featured in the film's trailer. The soundtrack includes Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" (in reference to Apocalypse Now, an earlier Vietnam War film that starred Charlie Sheen's father, Martin Sheen); "Groovin'" by The Rascals, and "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding.

Release[edit]

The film was marketed with the tag line, "The first casualty of war is innocence." This was an adaptation of Senator Hiram Johnson's assertion in 1917 that "The first casualty of war is the truth." He was paraphrasing Aeschylus: "In war, truth is the first casualty".[13]

Platoon was released in US in 1986 and in the UK in March 1987, with an above 15 rating for strong language, scenes of violence, and soft drug use.[14]

Reception[edit]

Reviews[edit]

Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars, calling it the best film of the year, and the ninth best of the 1980s.[15][16] In his New York Times review, Vincent Canby described Platoon as "possibly the best work of any kind about the Vietnam War since Michael Herr's vigorous and hallucinatory book Dispatches.[17]

The film received an 88% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The critical consensus states that "Informed by director Oliver Stone's personal experiences in Vietnam, Platoon forgoes easy sermonizing in favor of a harrowing, ground-level view of war, bolstered by no-holds-barred performances from Charlie Sheen and Willem Dafoe." The film received a Metacritic score of 86%.[18]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Academy Award Best Picture Arnold Kopelson Won
Best Director Oliver Stone Won
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Tom Berenger Nominated
Willem Dafoe Nominated
Best Sound John Wilkinson Won
Richard Rogers Won
Charles Grenzbach Won
Simon Kaye Won
Best Cinematography Robert Richardson Nominated
Best Film Editing Claire Simpson Won
BAFTA Award Best Editing Won
Best Cinematography Robert Richardson Nominated
Best Direction Oliver Stone Won
Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing – Feature Film Won
Golden Globe Award Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Nominated
Best Motion Picture – Drama Arnold Kopelson Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Tom Berenger Won
Silver Bear Best Director Oliver Stone Won
Independent Spirit Award Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Film Arnold Kopelson Won
Best Male Lead Willem Dafoe Nominated
Best Cinematography Robert Richardson Won
Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Oliver Stone Nominated

Honors[edit]

American Film Institute lists:

In 2011, British television channel Channel 4 voted Platoon as the 6th greatest war film ever made, behind Full Metal Jacket and ahead of A Bridge Too Far.[20]

Adaptations[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Dale Dye wrote a novelization of the film in 1986.[21]

Games[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Platoon". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved July 20, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Platoon (1986)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  3. ^ Stone, Oliver (2001). Platoon DVD commentary (DVD). MGM Home Entertainment. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Salewicz, Chris (1999-07-22) [1997]. Oliver Stone: The Making of His Movies (New ed.). UK: Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 0-7528-1820-1. 
  5. ^ (subscription required)
  6. ^ Depp, Johnny. "Johnny Depp: Platoon interviews". https://www.youtube.com. You Tube. Retrieved 21 March 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  7. ^ Dye, Dale. Part 3 - Confronting Demons in "Platoon". Interview with Almar Haflidason. Movies. BBC. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Mohr Stories 84: Charlie Sheen". Mohr Stories Podcast. Jay Mohr. Aug 27, 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Platoon filming locations". http://www.fast-rewind.com. Fast rewind 80s. Retrieved 21 March 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  10. ^ Chuyaco, Joy (4 March 2012). "Made in Phl Hollywood Films". Phil Star. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Chua, Lawrence. "BOMB Magazine: Willem Dafoe by Louis Morra". Bombsite.com. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  12. ^ Stone, Oliver (2001). Platoon DVD commentary (DVD). MGM Home Entertainment. 
  13. ^ Mooallem, Jon (February 29, 2004). "How movie taglines are born". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 13, 2008. 
  14. ^ "Platoon". http://www.bbfc.co.uk. BBFC: British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 21 March 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  15. ^ Roger Ebert (1986-12-30). "Platoon Movie Review & Film Summary (1986)". rogerbert.com. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  16. ^ Roger Ebert; Gene Siskel (2011-05-03). "Siskel and Ebert Top Ten Lists (1969-1998) - Inner Mind". innermind.com. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  17. ^ "The Vietnam War in Stone's "Platoon" - New York Times". The New York Times. December 19, 1986. 
  18. ^ "Platoon - Rotten Tomatoes". Uk.rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  19. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  20. ^ "Channel 4's 100 Greatest War Movies of All Time". Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  21. ^ "Platoon by Dale A. Dye". Goodreads. Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  22. ^ "Platoon (1986)". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  23. ^ "Platoon: The 1st Airborne Cavalry Division in Vietnam". GameSpot.com. 2002-11-21. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 

External links[edit]