Platoon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 23, 2011 by Dennis Amith
“Platoon” is one of the best war films ever made. Based on writer/director Oliver Stone’s own Vietnam War experience and wanting to capture the authenticity of what he saw and experienced, “Platoon” will always be Stone’s masterpiece. If you enjoyed the film, it is highly recommended on Blu-ray!
Images courtesy of © 1986 Orion Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1986
DURATION: 120 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 4.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox
RELEASE DATE: May 24 2011
Written and Directed by Oliver Stone
Produced by Arnold Kopelson
Executive Producer: John Daly, Derek Gibson
Co-Producer: A. Kitman Ho
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography by Robert Richardson
Edited by Claire Simpson
Casting by Pat Golden, Warren McLean, Bob Morones
Production Design by Bruno Rubeo
Art Direction by Rodell Cruz, Sherman Williams
Charlie Sheen as Chris
Tom Berenger as Sgt. Barnes
Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias
Keith David as King
Forest Whitaker as Big Harold
Francesco Quinn as Rhah
Kevin Dillon as Bunny
John C. McGinley as Sgt. O’Neill
Reggie Johnson as Junior
Mark Moses as Lt. Wolfe
Corey Glover as Francis
Johnny Depp as Lerner
Chris Pedersen as Crawford
Bob Orwig as Gardner
Corkey Ford as Manny
David Neidorf as Tex
Richard Edson as Sal
Tony Todd as Warren
Kevin Eshelman as Morehouse
Terry Mclivain as Ace
J. Adam Glover as Sanderson
Paul Sanchez as Doc
Dale Dye as Captain Harris
Peter Hicks as Parker
Basile Achara as Flash
PLATOON tells the extraordinary journey of Private Chris Taylor (Sheen), a young, naive American who arrives in Vietnam and quickly discovers he must battle the Viet Cong alongside the gnawing fear, physical exhaustion and intense anger growing within him. His two commanding officers (Oscar-nominated Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe) draw a fine line between the war they wage against the enemy and the one they fight with each other. Meanwhile, the conflict, chaos and hatred permeate Taylor, suffocating his realities and numbing his feelings to man’s highest value: life.
For screenwriter and filmmaker, Oliver Stone, there is always a film that sparks intrigue among critics and audiences.
As a writer, Stone has had success with “Midnight Express” (1978), “Conan the Barbarian” (1982) and “Scarface” (1983) but as a filmmaker, Stone had not had a hit. In fact his film “Salvador” was a failure in 1986 and dejected with the failure of the film, he would have to work on “Platoon”, a Vietnam war film that had challenges, especially because of its low budget of $6.5 million.
But as an infantryman in Vietnam, Stone had wanted to create a film based on his experience but to counter John Wayne’s “The Green Berets” film from 1968 (which was created to counter the anti-war atmosphere and social discontent in the U.S.).
And because the film showcased the atrocities, the discontent with the soldiers and the confusion of what took place in the battlefield, it was well-received by film critics and audiences.
The low budget film would be a box office success earning over $138 million and would be nominated for eight Academy Awards and take home four Oscars for “Best Director”, “Best Film Editing”, “Best Picture” and “Best Sound”. In 2007, the film would be placed at #83 by the American Film Institute for “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies” poll.
And now “Platoon” will reach its 25th year and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the film, Twentieth Century Fox will be releasing a special 2-Disc Set on Blu-ray.
“Platoon” is a film that focuses on Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), a young college student who quit school to volunteer and fight in the war in 1967. But once he arrives to Vietnam, he starts to realize that it was a big mistake.
Upon arriving, dead bodies of Americans in body bags are lying on the ground and now being loaded into the plane he just arrived in. As a member of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment near the Cambodian border, the conditions are harsher than he had imagined.
The veteran soldiers look at him as weak, he is constantly being bitten by red ants and not exactly handling being in the jungle all that well. While making friends with various soldiers, he begins to respect Sergeant Elias (played by Willem Dafoe), a man who cares about his soldiers unlike Sergeant Barnes (played by Tom Berenger), who is more like a bully and is often at odds against Elias.
But with each day, he notices soldiers counting the days when they can go back home. For Chris, with regrets of being in Vietnam, each day he is constantly writing to his family of how much he hates being there and also begins the countdown to when he will go back because each day in the jungle, chances of being killed continue to rise.
In fact, friends he would make are killed and he begins to realize that for many of these soldiers who don’t want to be in Vietnam, the atrocities he sees from war, the killing and rape of innocent Vietnamese in villages start to weight down on him and he starts to find himself losing it.
And to make things worse, he starts to suspect a superior of killing the one true friend he had on the battlefield.
As the platoon continues to go back to the ambush areas, what will happen to the soldiers that are left and will Chris survive at all?
“Platoon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (Widescreen 1:85:1). At first, because of the older titles, I was thinking that this film was going to look aged, especially since this was a low budget film that was shot in the ’80s and I tend to be critical on the PQ of many ’80s films released on Blu.
As for “Platoon”, I was quite impressed by the look of the film and how clean the print was. Granted, it’s not going to come close to anything released in the last five years but for a 25-year-old film, “Platoon” looks very good on Blu-ray. The amount of detail and clarity especially the vibrant colors featured in the film were quite noticeable this time around watching it in HD versus on DVD. You can see the grime, sweat, blood and just overall detail of the jungle. Also, the blacks are nice and deep and there is a good amount of grain.
Robert Richardson (“Shutter Island”, “Inglorious Basterds”, “Kill Bill” films) did a fantastic job with the cinematography, from vignettes during sundown to capturing the fears of the soldiers eyes. Overall, PQ for “Platoon” is very good!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Platoon” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 4.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and French 5.1 DTS. There is no doubt that Georges Delerue’s (“The Man for All Seasons”, “Twins”, “The Day of the Jackal”) music is one of the most memorable themes in a movie. The music for “Platoon” captures ’60s music but also a score that I have always look forward to listening to each time I watch the film.
But with this lossless soundtrack, it is known that Oliver Stone really pushed the buttons for sound and would easily frustrate the sound crew because he wanted authenticity down to the insects and lizards (especially a gecko). But while ambiance for the film is rather strong, whenever you get to scenes of an ambush, where there is firing both ways especially during the final half hour of the film, there is really good panning of the audio but unfortunately, it’s not as much as I would have liked.
For the most part, dialogue is clear as with the sounds of ammunition being discharged and sounds of people running into the plants and so forth. Don’t expect too much though as it’s not the most immersive soundtrack that utilizes the surround channels or LFE but still, it’s a major upgrade compared to the original DVD release.
Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.
“Platoon” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary by Director Oliver Stone – Director Oliver Stone talks about his own Vietnam War experiences, how Chris Taylor was loosely based on his experiences and more.
- Audio Commentary by Military Advisor Dale Dye – For this commentary, retired US Marine Capt. Dale Dye gives is in-depth information of the conflict in Vietnam and really impressive details of the war.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary by Olive Stone – (11:31) A total of eleven scenes with Oliver Stone explaining why he cut them, why he regrets cutting some of them and some he just found really lame.
- Flashback to Platoon: Snapshot in Time: 1967-1968 – (19:15) Interviews with Oliver Stone and other veterans and historians about the Vietnam War and how America lost the war.
- Creating the Nam – (12:04) A featurette on how Oliver Stone wanted authenticity and the pains that it took to create that authenticity in the Philippines, especially with a low budget and how much stress it put on the cast and crew.
- Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon – (17:19) A featurette on how successful the film was and how veterans reacted to the film.
- One War, Many Stories Documentary – (25:32) Oliver Stone and Vietnam War veterans talk about their experiences and how it was similar or different from what was shown in “Platoon”.
- Preparing for ‘Nam – (6:36) A featurette about those who signed up for the military and went to boot camp before the Vietnam War.
- Caputo & The 7th Fleet Vignette – (1:38) Phillip Caputo talks about leaving Saigon in a helicopter and many anti-aircraft were being shot at them.
- Dye Training Method Vignette – (3:23) Captain Dale dye talks about training the actors to be a soldier in the film.
- Gordon Gekko Vignette – (1:06) A story from the editor of how the name Gordon Gekko came up.
- TV Spots – Three TV spots (Action, Critical Acclaim and The Director).
- Theatrical Trailer – (1:44) The original theatrical trailer for “Platoon”
“Platoon” comes with 2-Discs, one is the Blu-ray and the other is a DVD version of the film presented in widescreen (1:85:1). The DVD is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish Dolby Surround and subtitles are in Spanish and French. Also, the Blu-ray release comes with a slip cover.
I had the opportunity to watch “Platoon” in the theater several times and since its release back in 1986, I have watched this film many times on video and on cable and what I love about the film is that it doesn’t glorify war or patriotism, it was an honest portrayal of war and the fears that took place among the soldiers.
Many of us grew up reading or hearing that the Vietnam War was an unpopular war which we lost politically but yet during the early ’80s, the films that were shown about the Vietnam War were Chuck Norris “Missing in Action” films or Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo” and nothing that covered the truths about what happened during the war.
So, two films during the mid-’80s would showcase those fears experienced by soldiers and less about American machismo…”Platoon” (1986) and “Full Metal Jacket” (1987). Interesting enough, while these two anti-war films would capture the attention of the fears of soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War, “Top Gun” (also from 1986) would inspire many people to join the military. As films would showcase the fears of World War III as tension between Americans and Russians still existed, suffice to say, films such as “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket” were war films that would ask Americans, “What are we fighting for?”.
As mentioned, Stone’s film was a counter to John Wayne’s “The Green Berets” but there was no sugarcoating America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, no focus on heroics but pretty much the feeling that young men were being sent in on a suicide mission. and as constantly mentioned in the film, many wondered why they were sent there and what are they fighting for and all one can answer to those questions… “It’s all politics!”.
Also, it’s important to note that “Platoon” is the first film of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam Trilogy which was followed by “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) and “Heaven & Earth” (1993).
And this leads me to the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release of “Platoon”, there are featurettes that really further explain what happened during the Vietnam War and most importantly, why it was unpopular and how we lost. I’ve read books and tried to understand the war back then and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t grasp it. Especially having the mindset of the United States being so strong and powerful, how can we lose?
And fortunately, there are featurettes in this film, especially “Flashback to Platoon: Snapshot of Time: 1967-1968” that really explains to the viewer of what happened. And there are so many other featurettes included in this Blu-ray release that while many may have seen these in previous DVD releases, it’s great to have these special features once again for the Blu-ray release.
And in 2011, while we hear so much about an older Charlie Sheen and his “Tiger’s Blood”, back in 1986, his performance as Chris Taylor, the soldier who is struggling to understand the war and knowing his mistake of volunteering was done very well. You can sense Taylor’s fear and watch him slowly as he loses it but at the same time, trying to bring a moralistic attitude towards other soldiers when they start wanting to obliterate and destroy everything they see in Vietnam, even if the villagers are innocent.
“Platoon” also has many visual moments (the shot of Sgt. Elias trying to get back to the helicopters is one of my favorite scenes in cinematic history) and one thing I was surprised to see that back during the Vietnam War, there were certain live video feeds that people had the opportunity to see of Americans wounded in battle, bloodied or losing body parts or dead, it made the war real. You can tell that Oliver Stone wanted to bring that realism to the viewer but to also show how many people were killed. Many people that you start to care for or root for, you realize that these individuals have no chance.
And those who survive, knowing what we do now, many of the survivors would have a hard time when they arrived back in the U.S. No hero’s welcome! For some, it was deep depression, health problems due to Agent Orange or Post-Traumatic Stress and if anything, show us that war sucks!
“Platoon” for me is a classic war film. A film that tries not to be anything sugarcoated but to really show how moral was for soldiers back then. Oliver Stone experienced this and he saw others experience this sense of confusion and not knowing if they are going to live or die each day. They just hope they can make it long enough to get back home.
For me, that was enjoyable and in 2011, what is even more enjoyable is to see the number of talent who starred in this film and made a great career for themselves afterward. Aside from Oliver Stone who would go on to make “JFK”, “Any Given Sunday”, “Nixon” and “Natural Born Killers”, the film would feature talent such as Keith David (“Death at a Funeral”, “Crash”), Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”, “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”), Kevin Dillon (“Entourage”, “The Doors”), John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”, “Se7en”, “The Rock), Johnny Depp (“Edward Scissorhands”, “Sweney Todd”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”), Tom Berenger (“Inception”, “The Big Chill”, “Training Day”), Willem Dafoe (“Spider-Man”, “The Boondock Saints”, “Antichrist”) and Charlie Sheen (“Two and a Half Men”), “Wall Street”, “Major League”).
So, there are many components to the film that you can’t help but be impressed by. Well-directed, well-written, well-performed and to think that this film was a low-budget film made for only $6.5 million and would make over $138 million. It’s a testament to the film’s efficacy and how it struck a chord for many viewers and to this day, many continue to rewatch this film over and over because it’s a wonderful film.
If you are a fan of “Platoon”, owned various video versions of this film or even if you haven’t watched it before, this 25th anniversary Blu-ray release is worth buying, worth owning and worth having in your Blu-ray collection. Highly recommended!
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