Tuesday, December 27, 2011

AFI Top 100 Countdown: #86 Platoon


Directed by Oliver Stone
Written by Oliver Stone
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Forest Whitaker

AFI Top 100 Criteria:

Critical Recognition: Formal commendation in print, television, and digital media.

* 86% on Rottentomatoes.com

*"Platoon is one of those movies that, once seen, will never be forgotten, and, at least for those who were not in Vietnam, will forever alter the way in which the war is considered" -James Barardinelli, ReelViews

*"The movie is beautifully written (by Stone), constructed with strong, clean lines, immaculately paced and regularly surprising." -Paul Attanasio, Washington Post

Major Award Winner: Recognition from competitive events including awards from peer groups, critics, guilds, and major film festivals.

*Academy: Won: Best Film Editing, Sound, Director and Picture.  Nominations: Writing, Cinematography, Supporting Actor (Dafoe and Berenger)

*Golden Globe: Won: Supporting Actor (Berenger), Director and Picture.  Nominated for Screenplay

*Independent Spirit Awards: Won: Screenplay, Cinematography, Director and Feature.  Nominated for Male Lead (Dafoe)

Popularity Over Time: Includes success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.

*Budget: $6,000,000

*Gross: $137,963,328 (USA)

*Rentals: $69,937,000 (USA)

Historical Significance: A film's mark on the history of the moving image through visionary narrative devices, technical innovation or other groundbreaking achievements.

*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 night-time "ambushes" which utilized special-effects explosions. Stone explained 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".  Willem Dafoe said "the training was very important to the making of the film," including its authenticity and 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."

Cultural Impact: A film's mark on American society in matters of style and substance.

*After his tour of duty in Vietnam ended in 1968, Stone wrote a screenplay called Break: a semi-autobiographical account detailing his experiences with his parents and his time in Vietnam. In a 2010 interview with the Times, Stone discussed his killing of a Viet Cong soldier and how he blended this experience into his screenplay. It featured several characters who were the seeds of those who would end up in PLATOON.

Javi: Having seen BATTLE: LOS ANGELES this year, I couldn't help but notice all of the reviews talking about cliche story lines and one note characters full of stereotypes.  I like to think that at the time of its release, PLATOON was the movie that broke all of that.  It showed tense battle scenes and made you feel for the characters in ways that no other war movie had while commenting on the harsh realities of the Vietnam War, and its effect on the soldiers and the country as a whole.  I like to think that movies like PLATOON, THE THIN RED LINE, and the such are what really make war movies important because they added something intellectual and thought-provoking in addition to the carnage.

In this movie, we have the awesome game of "oh hey, I know that guy" game much like DAZED AND CONFUSED, EMPIRE RECORDS, and other such movies where apparently half of the cast ended up becoming famous afterwards.  Anyway, a lot of people already know this story, as this is a movie most guys have probably seen a few times.  I was pretty amazed by how much I actually remembered of this movie, and it's been a few years since I've seen it all the way through.  I was just amazed at how well written and well shot this movie was.  I guess because my expectations for what a war movie should be have been lowered by decades of sub-par action, but I was pleased at how well all of the characters in the platoon were given character were the emphasis of the movie instead of just props to shoot and be shot at.

I can't imagine thinking of how revolutionary how this movie was, one of the more realistic portrayals of war and the behavior of our soldiers overseas must have been horrible to see for people that were brought up on the whole idea of the good ol' boys going to fight for their country and do the right thing. Regardless, this should be required viewing for most people that enjoy any sort of action or even war movies.

Jonesy: The Vietnam War is a subject of much discussion today. There are so many different ways to look at the war and its impact on American society. I for one was always fascinated by the cultural implications in America during that time that I wrote my college senior thesis on the protesters of that era. And whatever your views, Vietnam is still one of the controversial military operations the US has been involved in. Director Oliver Stone elicited to serve as a young man, and he used his experiences to eventually write this screenplay.

PLATOON is a realistic, harsh, and gut wrenching look at the front lines. It's one of the most realistic depictions of war I've seen on screen. Normal, moral men are put into extreme circumstances, and many don't come out clean in the end. It's easy to sit on the couch and say, "If I was there, I would never kill those people," but I'm sure these characters thought the same. One aspect I enjoyed was the lack of the "back home" there was. Just like the soldiers, we're isolated with just their story on the front lines, so we have to project whatever political thoughts are onto the screen.

This movie can be somewhat polarizing. The harsh realities brought to the screen may be too much for some people because PLATOON is so realistic because of Stone's personal involvement during the war. In the hands of any other director, I don't think the same rawness and truthfulness would come across.

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