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#1 July Diaz

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 09:55 AM

Paul & Amy hunker down to cover 1986's Vietnam War drama Platoon! They look at director Oliver Stone's relationship with Martin Scorsese, discover how he film captures the chaos of war, and remember the ill-advised Platoon video game Plus: Amy sits down with the military advisor on Platoon, Dale Dye, to learn how he helped the cast get in the soldier mindset.
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#2 AlmostAGhost

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 01:33 PM

So... what'd you all think?

After listening to Amy & Paul, I felt like I missed a lot. I didn't take much in the way of a message out of the film beyond "war is brutal" -- its superficial level is its point, I thought. There was little depth of backstory or politics or metaphor. But it seemed like Paul and Amy pulled some more meaning out of it than I did. Curious what you all thought about the film and story.

But to that end, I did feel like that superficial style works for a movie about war so in the end, I was ok with it. But maybe if I watch it with more depth in mind than I will like it even more.

#3 EvRobert

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 02:34 PM

ngl, I'm guessing I saw this about the same age Paul did, I was 10, saw in on VHS in 1987, paired with Full Metal Jacket and Predator. Please don't blame my parents :D

My folks had friends in our very small town who were the ones who introduced me to "film", they were the first people I knew that had a VCR and they had walls of movies. They lived a couple of blocks from us, and went to the same church. So my folks would go to their house on a Friday night and play cards and their daughter (a couple of years older than me) and I would watch movies.

It was there I saw Annie, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, Michael Jackson's Thriller, Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, etc.

They moved to Dallas in 86 or so, and in 87 for vacation, we drove to Dallas and spent a week with them. That week, I watched Abbott and Costello, I watched Buster Keaton, I read Sherlock Holmes and books about Elvis Presley and we rented movies and watched movies every night.

My dad was a Vietnam veteran, and very open about his experiences (my dad had a FASCINATING experience in Vietnam-unlike any I have ever heard of or seen and one I've longed to capture for stage) so they thought he would enjoy Platoon and FMJ.

I don't think you can get away from discussing Platoon without discussing Full Metal Jacket, coming out almost back to back, both featuring young casts of young up and comers, Dale Dye vs R. Lee Emry as advisers turned actors on the film.

My dad enjoyed Platoon but hated FMJ. People say that FMJ was "real" or whatever and I'm I'm sure to some it was, but my dad thought it was almost cartoonish, but Platoon stuck with him. The film didn't really mirror his experience in any way, but the characters did. He never saw villagers get mowed down in the villages, or random pig killing, he (as far as I know) didn't see people using guns as bongs, but the different groups within the Platoon, the jocks, stoners, etc etc etc, stuck with him.

I think that's why Platoon deserves to be on the AFI, Stone wasn't just the first Vietnam vet to win an Oscar, he was the first Vietnam vet to write and direct a Hollywood film. It was written as sort of the counterpoint to John Wayne's The Green Berets.

Others, whether that's The Green Berets of Apocalypse Now or The Deer Hunter, couldn't capture the realism that Stone did. The ones that came after, were always in it's shadow, I think including Born On The Fourth Of July (a great movie, but more about one person's experience before, during and after The Vietnam War and not about that snapshot of The Vietnam War that Platoon is) and Heaven & Earth (honestly, my favorite of Stone's Vietnam Trilogy). Stone couldn't make Bot4oJ without Platoon, nor could he do Heaven & Earth. One is about Vietnam itself, one is about one person's experience before during and after but it's hard to appreciate without having seen the horrors of Platoon, and one is strictly about life after Vietnam, but again it's hard to appreciate without the horror that is Platoon.

#4 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 03:02 PM

View PostAlmostAGhost, on 12 July 2018 - 01:33 PM, said:

So... what'd you all think?

After listening to Amy & Paul, I felt like I missed a lot. I didn't take much in the way of a message out of the film beyond "war is brutal" -- its superficial level is its point, I thought. There was little depth of backstory or politics or metaphor. But it seemed like Paul and Amy pulled some more meaning out of it than I did. Curious what you all thought about the film and story.

But to that end, I did feel like that superficial style works for a movie about war so in the end, I was ok with it. But maybe if I watch it with more depth in mind than I will like it even more.


Hmm, I thought that if anything Platoon is too obvious* about its central metaphor (I think Sheen's narration speaks it out loud at the end of the movie). The two commanding officers (Berenger and Dafoe) represent the good and bad impulses in the lead character's soul. That extends to America's handling of Vietnam and war in general: the humanitarian impulse versus the impulse to blow shit up. The conflict is not resolved because it's inherently unresolvable.

*Certainly not the only time Oliver Stone would make a metaphor too obvious!

#5 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 03:15 PM

Simpsons reference at 1:08.



Though honestly, I thought there would be more. Seems like their Vietnam references draw more from Apocalypse Now.

#6 Cameron H.

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 03:29 PM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 12 July 2018 - 03:02 PM, said:


Hmm, I thought that if anything Platoon is too obvious* about its central metaphor (I think Sheen's narration speaks it out loud at the end of the movie). The two commanding officers (Berenger and Dafoe) represent the good and bad impulses in the lead character's soul. That extends to America's handling of Vietnam and war in general: the humanitarian impulse versus the impulse to blow shit up. The conflict is not resolved because it's inherently unresolvable.

*Certainly not the only time Oliver Stone would make a metaphor too obvious!


I agree. I loved the movie, but it essentially opens with Elias carrying his gun on his back like a crucifix. I mean, from that shot alone you know he’s doomed, never mind whatever foreshadowing they discussed in the episode.

In a way, that’s why I take a bit of exception with Kael’s take on Dafoe’s character. If she’s saying supposed to represent this “perfect man” that’s glossing over the fact that he’s essentially Jesus. He’s supposed to be better than everyone else. He even dies for the sins of his Platoon. Hell, even his name is Biblical. (Elias = Elijah a prophet taken to Heaven in a whirlwind of fire)


Elias represents an ideal, but not necessarily one that Stone is suggesting is achievable. We can’t be Elias any more than we can walk on water.

Ultimately, like you said, Chris wraps it up in the end. When people talk about Vietnam, it's often framed as reality (Barnes) vs. idealism (Elias). But for Stone, it's not about one or the other. It's about both. In which case, I would argue that Chris, being a child “born of those two fathers,” is the “perfect” man. He’s the balance.
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#7 Cameron H.

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 03:37 PM

I’m so glad that Chris didn’t let Barnes live at the end. That scene is so important and would have undercut the entire movie if he had caved to schmaltzy sentimentality. That scene is brilliant because it mirrors the earlier scene where Barnes shoots Elias. It’s set up as though Chris is avenging Elias when in actuality he’s becoming Barnes. And, by proxy, so is the audience.
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#8 Cam Bert

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 04:17 PM

I think I was 15-ish the first time I saw Platoon and it is one of maybe five movies that as soon as it finished I rewound the tape and watched it again. It wasn't because I was like "War, fuck yeah!" Rather I was trying to understand. I think the one thing this film does brilliantly is that we know so little about these characters but we know enough. Like they said we don't a lot about Barnes. He has these scars, what's his story? How many tours has he done? What was his life before the war? We'd like to know these things but we don't get them, in a sense that makes us like Chris. We're plunked down in the middle of these and left to figure out things for ourselves. These people's actions speak for them and through those we get to know who they are. In a sense you are transient in these people's lives. You're going through this together but when it's down you'll go separate ways and never see or talk again. I think this is also seen a bit in the two factions at the camp. You have Elias's side which they don't really care who you are or where you come from, but you have the Barnes side which has an identity of "this is who we are and where we come from." They're more about the brotherly bond in arms while Elias and them are more about the brotherly bond of just being human. This also helps speak towards the nature of the Vietnam war in general and not just these specific people. They could be anybody, people you knew even. You take something like the Deer Hunter that spends so long with their characters so you get to know them so you feel for them later on. Platoon on the other hand lets the characters serve as more archetypes that you can see into them any variety of people and you care more because you feel more the nature of war.
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#9 Cameron H.

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 04:34 PM

View PostCam Bert, on 12 July 2018 - 04:17 PM, said:

You're going through this together but when it's down you'll go separate ways and never see or talk again.


This is a great point. You really get a sense of it when King (Keith David) is leaving. Chris is like, "Hey, you should come over to my house and hang," but you get the feeling that's never going to happen. I think that's why Elias talks about loving being there, and why King (Elias' surrogate) gives such a wistful look before he hops on the chopper. Is ugly as it was, there was freedom there. Bunny even talks about it when he says, "I like it here. You get to do what you want. Nobody fucks with you. The only worry you got is dying. And if that happens, you won't know about it anyway. So what the fuck, man." Of course, Bunny is perverting that freedom, but still...

I also think it's a fitting irony that Bunny says that if you die "you won't know about it anyway," but the soldier who kills him stands over him and takes slow and careful aim. We are even given Bunny's POV. Clearly, when Bunny died, he "knew about it."
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#10 AlmostAGhost

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 07:20 PM

I was thinking about why I missed some of the message, as it’s not as if I didn’t notice that Berenger and Dafoe were contrasting figures to the story. (I will admit I missed the Jesus allusions with Dafoe; does that mean there are devil refs for Berenger?)

But what it comes down to I think is just my own biases. My inclination is to not read anyone in the jungle of war to be ‘good’ exactly, they’re all being corrupted and becoming brutes. That sounds way harsher than I mean it, I’m certainly not impractical about war nor an absolute pacifist, but seeing war as humanitarian is difficult for me. So this reading missed me on first viewing, as obvious as it may be.

Either that or the metaphor being simply ‘good vs bad’ is such a simple one that my original view still stands of it feeling surface-level, lacking depth. War is certainly more complicated than that, right?

Still not sure which way I fall here. (I do like the movie!)

#11 Cameron H.

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 07:47 PM

View PostAlmostAGhost, on 12 July 2018 - 07:20 PM, said:

I was thinking about why I missed some of the message, as it’s not as if I didn’t notice that Berenger and Dafoe were contrasting figures to the story. (I will admit I missed the Jesus allusions with Dafoe; does that mean there are devil refs for Berenger?)

But what it comes down to I think is just my own biases. My inclination is to not read anyone in the jungle of war to be ‘good’ exactly, they’re all being corrupted and becoming brutes. That sounds way harsher than I mean it, I’m certainly not impractical about war nor an absolute pacifist, but seeing war as humanitarian is difficult for me. So this reading missed me on first viewing, as obvious as it may be.

Either that or the metaphor being simply ‘good vs bad’ is such a simple one that my original view still stands of it feeling surface-level, lacking depth. War is certainly more complicated than that, right?

Still not sure which way I fall here. (I do like the movie!)


Honestly, I think it leans toward outwardly simplistic. Don't get me wrong, "simple" doesn't necessarily mean "bad." Star Wars and Harry Potter are both "simple" stories. Simple stories tend to resonate. But I don't think it's as easy as "good vs evil" either. Barnes is a monster, yes, but without him, would they have survived as long as they did? They certainly weren't going to live very long under the lieutenant' s command.

And I don't think I'd say Barnes is a Satan characters necessarily, but I think he - literally and figuratively - embodies the ugliness of war. At one point, Elias' group wonder if Barnes can even be killed. The truth is, Barnes - the man - can, but the ugliness he represents cannot. That's what war is. In order to survive the war, you have to be a little Barnes; in order to survive after the war, you have to be a little Elias.
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#12 Susan*

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 08:49 PM

I didn't like Platoon when it was released and I really didn't like it when I watched it again last week. The voiceover made it nearly unwatchable for me. I can verify that the movie was a gigantic hit and that helped push a national conversation about Vietnam. I remember loads of TV shows about vets talking about their experiences, saying it was the first time they wanted to talk in public; whether they thought the movie was accurate or not, it made some people feel comfortable to talk in public. I wouldn't put it on the list but I can live with it being there because of that impact.

I love Hannah and Her Sisters, but that was a decent year for movies all around.

I don't like Oliver Stone movies, except that I love the first half of JFK--for cameos and overall style mostly. I didn't like Born on the Fourth of July. I think Coming Home is a much better movie for my money.

#13 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 09:01 PM

View PostSusan*, on 12 July 2018 - 08:49 PM, said:

I don't like Oliver Stone movies, except that I love the first half of JFK--for cameos and overall style mostly. I didn't like Born on the Fourth of July. I think Coming Home is a much better movie for my money.


I'd name JFK as my personal favorite Oliver Stone movie. I think it's his best-made film and the best single representation of Stone's unique brand of political paranoia. (You just have to watch it with the understanding that it's not all factually accurate.)

That said, Platoon is probably the most broadly liked and about even with JFK in terms of being an iconic Stone film so I understand why it was chosen.

#14 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 09:10 PM

View PostAlmostAGhost, on 12 July 2018 - 07:20 PM, said:

(I will admit I missed the Jesus allusions with Dafoe; does that mean there are devil refs for Berenger?)


I think there are some moments where Berenger is framed as a devil. Look at the way Stone cuts to his eyes at the end of the final battle scene, as he's about to cut down Charlie Sheen (around 2:45):



His pupils are highlighted in red, with the fire of the air strike behind him. Definitely a devil image here.

I liked how the podcast mentioned that ordinarily Berenger played the good guy in movies, while Dafoe usually played the weird/creepy guy. It's worth mentioning that while Dafoe does tend to get typecast as "creepy" in screen roles, in his theater work he usually did play the virtuous nice guy. He does seem to give a memorable performance when he's given the nice guy part (like in The Florida Project).

#15 Cameron H.

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 03:11 AM

I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but here’s my personal defense of the voice over.

In terms of storytelling, it works for me because that’s exactly the way a nineteen-year old kid who dropped out of college just to “check out” Vietnam probably would write. He’s basically “On the Road”-ing a war, so I can forgive him for being a bit over-the-top. That’s definitely how I used to write in college. ;)

From a metaphorical stand point, if Vietnam is our (America’s) sins, and Dafoe is our sacrifice, then Chris is the apostle writing the Gospel. My guess is, for Stone, Vietnam was so huge that it was a turning point for America, and as such, it required the writing of a new New Testament. Chris is literally writing epistles to his grandmother and asking her to share (spread the word) with his family.

I would even go far as to suggest that Chris represents a specific Apostle: John.

The Apostle John - who had a tendency to write in a more flowery, symbolic prose - is thought to be the youngest and often refers to himself as “the one Jesus loved.” This mirrors Chris as the newest grunt and the one Elias takes under his wing. Even more specifically, in his second epistle, John writes to an “elder lady” about the dangers of “false teachers.” John was also never martyred and is said to be the longest lived of the original twelve disciples. Which is happy news for Chris, but John also wrote Revelations and the end of the world. So I think we can extrapolate that Chris will lead a long life, but because of his experience in Vietnam, he can see the dangers that lie ahead.

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#16 pepperjack

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 04:36 AM

The refugees in the Philippines would have been ARVN (South Vietnamese) who were our allies. They would have fought against other Vietnamese and not Americans in the war. So beyond basic reliving war experiences I don’t think they would have been anything particularly notable about having to film scenes fighting against US troops. That was a bit of a fishing trip to find something by which to be offended.

Also, the Vietnamese fought many wars: the thing we call ‘The Vietnam War’ is sometimes called the American War to distinguish it from the ones against the French, the Chinese, World was II (and they had to eventually roll into Cambodia to end the Khmer Rouge nonsense). I’ve read quite a few return to Vietnam stories from Vietnam vets and they are always surprised by how warmly they are greeted by former NVA and VC opponents. Of course, it’s easier to be mangnamous when you win...

#17 taylor anne photo

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 05:56 AM

I still haven't seen this movie yet, but when my grandfather was alive he only had 3 DVDs in my memory and this was one of them. The other two were A Beautiful Mind and A River Runs Through It. So when he would actually buy something that he could rewatch you knew he loved it. My own DVD player is busted but I'm pretty convinced my mom still has that copy of Platoon at her house so hopefully I can get over there to watch it ASAP, cause I think it would mean a lot more to me if I got to watch the version that he bought himself.
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#18 AlmostAGhost

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 06:08 AM

View PostCameron H., on 12 July 2018 - 07:47 PM, said:

Don't get me wrong, "simple" doesn't necessarily mean "bad."


Right yea... I definitely liked the film. If you go back to my Bonnie & Clyde mini 'review' on Letterboxd, I mentioned a possible metaphor/depth I was reading into the film... but honestly I didn't feel hooked enough to figure it out or think about it anymore.

With Platoon, I'm still thinking about it. And that says a lot about the quality of a film to me.

#19 tomspanks

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Posted 13 July 2018 - 07:08 AM

View PostCameron H., on 12 July 2018 - 03:29 PM, said:

In a way, that’s why I take a bit of exception with Kael’s take on Dafoe’s character. If she’s saying supposed to represent this “perfect man” that’s glossing over the fact that he’s essentially Jesus. He’s supposed to be better than everyone else. He even dies for the sins of his Platoon. Hell, even his name is Biblical. (Elias = Elijah a prophet taken to Heaven in a whirlwind of fire)

Elias represents an ideal, but not necessarily one that Stone is suggesting is achievable. We can’t be Elias any more than we can walk on water.


Not to mention in the movie, one of the guys says, "Elias is a water-walker." If this doesn't hammer in the symbolism, I don't know what will.

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Posted 14 July 2018 - 03:47 AM

By the way, the "making of" stories about Hollywood people doing boot-camp-type preparation always leave me cold. I immediately start rolling my eyes and I'm not sure why. Maybe in my (uneducated) gut I think it gives young Hollywood Bros an opportunity to say they got to be "real men" for a week or so and for me it just drives home how spoiled and disconnected they presumably are? Maybe I'm not convinced that movies are better because it's more "real" for actors? I do tend to like a lot of stage-y old B&W movies with sharp dialogue.

I did read a lot of books about movies years ago -- mostly books about clashes of egos, or how things went really wrong on a movie set. Not macho stuff.