A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.
Year 1, Day 29
BEFORE: I continue to chug along my Best Picture chain with Oliver Stone’s Platoon. Again, I can’t think of much to say about this film before I watch it. Charlie Sheen stars with Johnny Depp (last seen in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) in a minor role.
AFTER: Like Kramer vs. Kramer yesterday, the strength of Platoon is its depiction of the Vietnam War. You the viewer can see what it would have been like to be in the Vietnam War. Friends and other soldiers dying around you, grenades and other explosives detonating very nearby, and gunning the enemies down from inside your hole. When you see a film like this, it makes you appreciate our soldiers even more for the hard work they do, risking their lives everyday.
However, the story is subpar. In fact there really isn’t a story at all; Oliver Stone is just trying to show the viewer what war is like. This film is more of a character study that examines moral questions that soldiers go through in times of war. How far should one go in times like these? Is it acceptable to threaten, torture, or even kill unarmed enemies so that you and your allies can survive? These are important questions and ones that the film looks at in depth but there was no sense of purpose. Yes, we’ve already established that this film is entertaining to watch to see what the Vietnam War was like, but what’s the purpose of watching it? The moral questions are really just another aspect of the depiction of the War, not a story.
Film critic Roger Ebert likes this approach and says, “There is no carefully mapped plot to lead us from point to point; instead, like the characters, we are usually disoriented. Anything is likely to happen, usually without warning.” I think this is very true but I don’t see why there can’t also be an underlying story. Apocalypse Now is very similar to Platoon: it’s about the Vietnam War and looks at the moral issues that are part of wars. But Apocalypse Now has an underlying story; find and kill Col. Kurtz. That gives the film a purpose and a reason to watch other than, “I wonder what war looks and feels like.”
RATING: 3 out of 5