This is a great movie that will be timeless forever.
I wish I hadn't bought the version of this DVD that came out in 2001.
Fans of Oliver Stone who have seen the movie Platoon, shouldn't be surprised that he could (or would) make a movie like World Trade Center. While both of these films tell different stories, the same ideas of heroism, courage under extreme situations, and the power of the human spirit are both highly in evidence. What really makes Platoon stand out is how it feels. In many war movies before the 1980s, we never saw soldiers like these. They were just put across differently on screen for whatever reason.
In this film, we follow Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) literally fresh off the plane. When he lands in Vietnam, he knows he has entered a different world, and we see him take all the lumps it has to throw it at him until eventually he becomes his own man. From getting shot, to getting high, to forging a bond with his commanding officer Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe), to then seeing that bond cut short by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), this film is at all times painful, poignant and even humorous. By using the commanding officers as different aspects of the American culture, we get to see how a young generation might grow up confused. However, amidst all of this the only heavy handed message is the tagline:
The first casualty of war is innocence.
And even that certainly has it's place.
Two commentary tracks are available on this set. There is one with Director Oliver Stone and then another one with Military Advisor Dale Dye. Having listened to Dye do a commentary for The Dirty Dozen, I decided I'd rather hear from the person who actually directed the film. I have to admit that I was disappointed by Oliver Stone. This guy is sadly too much in his own head to do a commentary track, and what we get here just sounds and feels uninspired. To be honest, I got about thirty minutes through this thing and then decided to move on.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Oliver Stone
Considering the bad experience that I had with Stone on his commentary track, I decided that I would go another way and not watch these scenes with him talking over them. These were interesting to watch mainly because I have seen this movie one way for so long. While these scenes seemed to be cut for time purposes more than anything else, I have to admit that I enjoyed revisiting this aspect of the film. Perhaps that's the way deleted scenes should be watched? Maybe it takes the perspective of seeing the film a few different times before the scenes that were excised can be appreciated?
Six featurettes make up this section. Since they were all related to one another in some way, I figured I would watch them, list them out and then touch on the ones that really grabbed me. The featurettes available in this set are:
"Creating the 'Nam" featurette
"One War, Many Stories" featurette
"Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon" featurette
"Snapshot in Time: 1967-1968" featurette
"Preparing for 'Nam" featurette
"Tour of the Inferno" featurette
Of these six, the main ones I would recommend are "Creating the 'Nam" featurette, "Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon" featurette and "Tour of the Inferno" featurette.
Creating the 'Nam" examines the look of the film and how Stone and his production team achieved it. They talk about the shooting conditions, negotiating the various logistics and the type of planning that goes into pulling something like this film off. Overall, I thought this was interesting and might benefit some would be filmmakers.
"Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon" shows us the impact that this film had. I have to be honest, it was pretty bold for a studio to release this movie in the mid 1980s. Vietnam was only about 10 years old, but the effect that it had on the late 1970s made it seem like something we didn't talk too much about in 1986. It was a good featurette that gave a voice to what I was thinking then and what I feel now.
Lastly, the "Tour of the Inferno" featurette is a must watch because it is a "making of" that goes deep into why Oliver Stone wanted to not only direct this movie but serve in Vietnam. Why couldn't he have been this effusive in the commentary? We hear from the actors, cast and crew and I ultimately I found this featurette to be insightful, interesting and entertaining. Very good work, MGM!
Anamorphic Widesceen - 1.85:1. This movie has always played big for me. I didn't notice too much difference between how this movie looked in 2001 and on this 2006 DVD, but I am assuming that they probably did something to it in the compression. This movie has a sparseness that Apocalypse Now lacks. Not that I think one or the other is better, these films are different to be sure, I just think if you want to see the Vietnam experience but you aren't a "film person," Platoon gives it to you in a much more direct way.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. DTS Surround Sound. Remastered in High Definition. Like I mentioned in the Look section above, I have seen this movie so many times, it would be hard for me to see a new version of it and suddenly notice all this great work being done in the sound design. I just don't listen to things that way. I will say that this movie has the same impacting score that it has always had, and if anything, they have most likely made this DVD work better with all the home theater systems on the market.
The image of Sgt. Elias going down in blaze of glory graces this front cover. The artwork designers have added a heightened look to this picture that really gives it a harsh impact. The back cover features a few more shots from the film, a description, a Special Features listing, a cast list and technical specs. There are two discs in this set and they are nicely housed in this simple piece of plastic packaging. Basically, if you already own the 2001 version of this movie, I don't know that you need this one. If you don't own Platoon at all, this is the version you should own.
In a weird way, I feel that even though I have seen Platoon somewhere around 5 or 6 times, I never feel like I am done with this film. It is so rich and filled with ideas that I learn many things each and every time I watch it. In fact, I feel lucky that I first saw the film when I was 13 and that I have been able to sort of grow up with it. As my knowledge about history (and most importantly the Vietnam War) has grown, I see so much more in the subtext of this film each and every time I watch it. It's as if Oliver Stone, in making a very straight forward war movie, has given viewers the ultimate food for thought. I also appreciate that Stone didn't get too lost in the visuals like he has in other movies.
Filled with terrific performances by what has proven to be an all star cast, Platoon is a movie that will be watched and rewatched as long as the film is made available.
Platoon was released December 19, 1986.