|File:Platoon posters 86.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Oliver Stone|
|Produced by||Arnold Kopelson|
|Written by||Oliver Stone|
|Music by||Georges Delerue|
|Edited by||Claire Simpson|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|December 19, 1986 (limited release)
February 6, 1987 (wide release)
|Box office||$138.5 million (North America)|
Platoon is a 1986 American war film written and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen. It is the first film of a trilogy of Vietnam War films by Stone (followed by 1989's Born on the Fourth of July and 1993's Heaven & Earth). Stone wrote the story based upon his experiences as a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam to counter the vision of the war portrayed in John Wayne's The Green Berets. It was the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War.
The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1986. It also won Best Director for Oliver Stone, as well as Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing. In 1998, the American Film Institute placed Platoon at #83 in their "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies" poll.
In 1967, Chris Taylor has dropped out of college, enlisted in the U.S. Army and volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam. Assigned to a Bravo Company in the 25th Infantry Division near the Cambodian border, he is quickly worn down by the exhausting conditions, and his enthusiasm for the war wanes. One night his unit is set upon by a group of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers, who retreat after a brief confrontation. New recruit Gardner is killed while another soldier, Tex, is maimed by friendly fire. Taylor is reprimanded by the ruthless Staff Sergeant Barnes for falling asleep during watch, after being implicated by one of the veterans. Taylor eventually gains acceptance from a tight-knit group in his unit who socialize and use drugs in a bunker clubhouse at their base. He finds mentors in King and the loyal Sergeant Elias and becomes friends with other soldiers, including Lerner, Rhah, and Manny.
During a patrol, Manny is found mutilated and tied to a post while two others, Sal, and Sandy, are killed by a booby trap in a bunker. As tension mounts, the platoon soon reaches a nearby village where a supply cache is discovered. Using Lerner as a translator, Barnes interrogates the village chief to determine if they have been aiding the NVA. Despite the villagers' adamant denials, Barnes impulsively shoots and kills the chief's wife. He then holds the chief's daughter at gunpoint, threatening to kill her as well if the villagers do not reveal what they know. Elias arrives and is furious with Barnes' behavior. A brawl between the duo ensues, which is ended by the timid platoon commander, Lieutenant Wolfe, who orders the men to leave with the villagers, destroy the enemy supplies and burn the village down. As they leave, Taylor stops a group of soldiers from gang raping two girls.
Upon returning to base, Captain Harris warns that if he finds out that an illegal killing took place, a court-martial will be ordered, which concerns Barnes who anticipates that Elias will testify against him. On their next patrol, the platoon is ambushed and pinned down in a firefight, in which numerous soldiers, including Lerner and Big Harold, are wounded. Lerner is taken back to the helicopter landing area while Wolfe calls in a mortar strike on incorrect coordinates, resulting in many friendly fire casualties. Elias takes Taylor, Crawford, and Rhah to intercept flanking enemy troops. Barnes orders the rest of the platoon to retreat and goes back into the jungle to find Elias' group. Barnes finds Elias and shoots him, then returns to tell the others that Elias was killed by the enemy. While the platoon is extracting, they glimpse Elias, mortally wounded, emerging from the treeline and being chased by a group of North Vietnamese soldiers, who kill Elias. From Barnes' anxious manner, Taylor realizes that his account of what happened to Elias is inaccurate. At the base, Taylor is convinced that Barnes is responsible for Elias's death. He attempts to talk his group into fragging Barnes in retaliation when Barnes, intoxicated, enters the room and taunts them. Taylor assaults Barnes but is quickly overpowered. Barnes cuts Taylor near his eye with a push dagger before departing.
The platoon is sent back to the combat area to maintain defensive positions, where Taylor shares a foxhole with Francis. That night, a major NVA assault occurs, and the defensive lines are broken. Much of the platoon, Including Bunny, Junior, and Wolfe, are killed in the ensuing battle. During the attack, an NVA sapper armed with explosives rushes into battalion headquarters, self-detonating and killing everyone inside. Meanwhile, Captain Harris, the company commander, orders his air support to expend all remaining ordnance inside his perimeter. During the chaos, Taylor encounters Barnes, who is wounded and driven to insanity. Just as Barnes is about to kill Taylor, both men are knocked unconscious by an air strike. Taylor regains consciousness the following morning, picks up an enemy Type 56 rifle, and finds Barnes, who orders Taylor to call a medic. Seeing that Taylor will not help him, Barnes mockingly tells Taylor to pull the trigger. Taylor then shoots Barnes, killing him. He then sits until reinforcements arrive and find him. Francis, who survived the battle unharmed, deliberately stabs himself in the leg and reminds Taylor that because they have been twice wounded, they can return home. The helicopter flies away and Taylor, overwhelmed, weeps as he stares down at multiple craters full of corpses, friend and foe alike.
- Charlie Sheen as Private First Class Chris Taylor
- Tom Berenger as Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes
- Willem Dafoe as Sergeant Elias Grodin
- John C. McGinley as Sergeant Red O'Neill
- Kevin Dillon as Bunny
- Reggie Johnson as Junior
- Keith David as King
- Mark Moses as Lieutenant Wolfe
- Francesco Quinn as Rhah
- Forest Whitaker as Big Harold
- Tony Todd as Sergeant Warren
- Bob Orwig as Gardner
- Richard Edson as Sal
- Johnny Depp as Lerner
- Paul Sanchez as Doc
- Andrew B. Clark as Tubbs
- Corey Glover as Francis
- David Neidorf as Tex
- Chris Pedersen as Crawford
- James Terry McIlvain as Ace
- Basile Achara as Flash
- Ivan Kane as Tony Hoyt
- Steve Barredo as Fu Sheng
- Chris Castillejo as Rodriquez
- Peter Hicks as Parker
- Corkey Ford as Manny
- Kevin Eshelman as Morehouse
- Mark K. Ebenhoch as Ebenhoch
- Robert Galotti as Huffmeister
- J. Adam Glover as Sanderson
- Dale Dye as Captain Harris
After his tour of duty in Vietnam ended in 1968, Oliver Stone wrote a screenplay called Break: a semi-autobiographical account detailing his experiences with his parents and his time in Vietnam. Stone's return from active duty in Vietnam resulted in a "big change" in how he viewed life and the war. The unproduced screenplay Break was the result, eventually providing the basis for Platoon.
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. The script was set to music from The Doors; Stone sent the script to Jim Morrison in the hope he would play the lead (Morrison never responded but the script was returned to Oliver Stone by Morrison's manager shortly after Morrison's death - Morrison had the script with him when he died in Paris). Though Break went ultimately unproduced, it was the spur for him to attend film school.
After penning several other produced screenplays in the early 1970s, Stone came to work with Robert Bolt on an unproduced screenplay, The Cover-up. Bolt's rigorous approach rubbed off on Stone, and he was inspired to use the characters from his Break screenplay (who in turn were based upon people Stone knew in Vietnam) as the basis for a new screenplay titled The Platoon. Producer Martin Bregman attempted to elicit studio interest in the project, but Hollywood was still apathetic about Vietnam. However, the strength of Stone's writing on The Platoon was enough to get him the job penning Midnight Express in 1978. Despite that film's critical and commercial success, and that of other Stone-penned films at the time, most studios were still reluctant to finance The Platoon, as they feared a film about the Vietnam War would not attract an audience. After the release of The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, they then cited the perception that these films were considered the pinnacle of the Vietnam War film genre as reasons not to make The Platoon.
Stone instead attempted to break into mainstream direction via the easier-to-finance horror genre, but The Hand failed at the box office, and Stone began to think that The Platoon would never be made. Stone cowrote Year of the Dragon (directed by his friend and Deer Hunter helmer Michael Cimino) for a lower-than-usual fee of $200,000, on the condition from producer Dino De Laurentiis that he would then produce The Platoon. De Laurentiis secured financing for the film, but struggled to find a distributor. Because de Laurentiis had already spent money sending Stone to the Philippines to scout for locations, he decided to keep control of the film's script until he was repaid. Then Stone's script for what would become Salvador was passed to John Daly of British production company Hemdale. Once again, this was a project that Stone had struggled to secure financing for, but Daly loved the script and was prepared to finance both Salvador and The Platoon off the back of it. Stone shot Salvador first, before turning his attention to what was by now called Platoon.
Platoon was filmed on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, starting in February 1986. The production of the film, on a scheduled date, was almost canceled because of the political upheaval in the country due to then-dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but with the help of well-known Asian producer Mark Hill, the shoot went on as scheduled. The shoot commenced 2 days after Marcos fled the country. It lasted 54 days and cost $6.5 million. The production made a deal with the Philippine military for the use of military equipment. The film had real Vietnamese refugees acting in different roles in the film. Filming was done chronologically.
James Woods, who had starred in Stone's previous film, Salvador, was offered a part in Platoon. He turned the role down, later saying he "couldn't face going into another jungle with [Stone]". 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 nighttime "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."
Stone makes a cameo appearance as the battalion commander of 3/22 Infantry in the final battle, which was based on the real-life New Year's Day Battle of 1968 that Stone took part in while in Vietnam. Dale Dye, who played Bravo company's commander Captain Harris, is a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran who also acted as the film's technical advisor.
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Music used in the film includes Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane and "Okie From Muskogee" by Merle Haggard. During a scene in the "Underworld" the soldiers sing along to "The Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, which also featured in the film's trailer. The soundtrack also includes "Ride of the Valkyries" (in reference to Apocalypse Now, an earlier Vietnam War film that starred Charlie Sheen's father, Martin Sheen, in a leading role); "Groovin'" by The Rascals and "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding.
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The film was marketed with the tag line, "The first casualty of war is innocence", an adaptation of Senator Hiram Johnson's assertion in 1917 that "The first casualty of war is the truth". (C.f. Aeschylus (525–456 BC), "In war, truth is the first casualty.")
It was released in US in 1986 and in the UK in March 1987 with an above 15 rating for strong language, scenes of violence and soft drug use.
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The film received an 88% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The critical consensus states that "Informed by director Oliver Stone's personal experiences in Vietnam, Platoon forgoes easy sermonizing in favor of a harrowing, ground-level view of war, bolstered by no-holds-barred performances from Charlie Sheen and Willem Dafoe.". The film received a Metacritic score of 86%. Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars, calling it the best film of the year, and the ninth best of the 1980s. In his New York Times review, Vincent Canby described Platoon as "possibly the best work of any kind about the Vietnam War since Michael Herr's vigorous and hallucinatory book Dispatches.
Awards and nominations
American Film Institute lists:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies: #83
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills: #72
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
- Sergeant Barnes—Nominated Villain
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition): #86
A novelization of the film was written in 1986 by Dale Dye.
A shooter video game was developed by Ocean Software and published by Data East for a variety of computer and console gaming systems in 1987-88. In 2002, Digital Reality developed and Strategy First published a real-time strategy game based on the film for Microsoft Windows.
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- "Mohr Stories 84: Charlie Sheen". Mohr Stories Podcast. Jay Mohr. Aug 27, 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
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- Mooallem, Jon (February 29, 2004). "How movie taglines are born". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
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- "Platoon - Rotten Tomatoes". Uk.rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
- Roger Ebert (1986-12-30). "Platoon Movie Review & Film Summary (1986)". rogerbert.com. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
- Roger Ebert; Gene Siskel (2011-05-03). "Siskel and Ebert Top Ten Lists (1969-1998) - Inner Mind". innermind.com. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
- "The Vietnam War in Stone's "Platoon" - New York Times". The New York Times. December 19, 1986.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
- "Channel 4's 100 Greatest War Movies of All Time". Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- "Platoon by Dale A. Dye". Goodreads. Retrieved 2013-07-14.
- "Platoon (1986)". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2008-06-12.
- "Platoon: The 1st Airborne Cavalry Division in Vietnam". GameSpot.com. 2002-11-21. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
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