PLATOON (Oliver Stone, 1986)

Stripped of its schoolboy references to Moby-Dick, which writer-director Oliver Stone is clearly incapable of grasping or appreciating, Platoon is a mawkish, sentimental Vietnam War melodrama about a young recruit’s loss of innocence in war’s crucible. Chris Taylor, who narrates from the vantage of sometime in the future, becomes something of a battleground himself, as Ahab and Starbuck—er, Sgts. Barnes and Elias—compete for his soul. A ridiculous film, this, tedious and awfully familiar (Samuel Fuller’s fine Second World War The Big Red One, 1980, is generously raped and ransacked), this launch of Stone’s unofficial Vietnam War trilogy dips into the Melville only because Francis Ford Coppola availed himself of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness for his grandiose Apocalypse Now (1979). How well-read some filmmakers want to seem to us!

Reductive and schematic, the film at least affords the trip of spotting the likes of Forest Whitaker and Johnny Depp in its huge cast. AsTaylor, Martin Sheen’s son Charlie is not quite good enough.

Oscars for best picture and Stone’s direction. Platoon is from the United Kingdom and the United States. Let’s allow the Brits complete credit for it.


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