Top critical review
standing the test of time...?
on March 9, 2004
I was watching Platoon for the umpteenth time the other weekend when my flatmate came into the room and told me that Platoon had been a great movie, but that it had not maintained its status over the course of the last 15+ years. I can see what he means, the concept isn't great, Charlie Sheen's performance isn't particularly commanding, the key Viet Cong village scene is contrived and the special effects look amateurish by the standards of a Saving Private Ryan.
On the other hand, i think what the film lacks in those categories it makes up for amply with the performances of Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger as the grizzled, warring Sergeants who have seen it all before. The direction from Oliver Stone is also first rate, as ever, as he takes us into the jungle, through the mud and bugs and into the panic, confusion and desperation of the frenetic war scenes.
Yes, at times, the monologues from Sheen's character are a little irritating and, no, the story isn't complex, or particularly well constructed, but what Platoon lacks in depth, it compensates for with atmosphere (by which i mean tension and not all-out action scenes).
On a broader note, I suppose the whole concept of the war movie has become somewhat cliched in recent years also. The golden oldies saw war as a setting for heroes and tales of miraculous deeds, with the only recent example springing to mind being Memphis Belle. Of late, we have had to get used to the view that all wars are bad, fought for the wrong reasons and that a war movie must be a sidewards protest at the whole event. Black Hawk Down et al, have taken the message out of Platoon and made it standard. They say the highest form of flattery is imitation, but it is also true that the original then loses some of its edge, loses that uniqueness.
Platoon is a great movie, but all ground-breaking films grow up into btroken ground and Platoon is not the exception any longer, rather it has become the rule.