Nightlife

Platoon - 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Widescreen)

by Mack Bates
Contributor
Monday Jun 19, 2006
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Available from MGM/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Available from MGM/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment  

It’s universally thought that Platoon marks writer-director Oliver Stone’s greatest cinematic achievement to date. You won’t find an argument against that statement here because happens to be true. Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winner of four, including Best Picture and Best Director for Stone (whose original screenplay was also nominated), "Platoon" is arguably the Vietnam War film to judge all others by. With the notable exception of Francis Ford Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now," which like "Platoon" is every bit as incendiary as its ever been and is more relevant today than ever before.

An unflinching portrait of the emotional and philosophical duality of war, Platoon has been described by Vietnam War-era veterans as the most realistic depiction of the war produced by a Hollywood studio. Told from the perspective of Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), a privileged, idealistic young man who volunteers to fight in the Vietnam War and soon finds himself, along with his fellow soldiers (a virtual who’s-who of up-and-coming actors, including Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker) at the center of an increasingly volatile tug of war between their platoon’s two sparing sergeants, the introspective and free-spirited Elias (Willem Dafoe) and the sadistic, war-obsessed Barnes (Tom Berenger).

Both Dafoe and Berenger received Oscar nominations for their performances in the supporting actor category. Berenger, in his best performance to date, humanizes a monster without sentimentalizing him which is damn near impossible to do. And Dafoe, who knows a thing or two about humanizing a monster (check out his Oscar-nominated performance in Shadow of the Vampire for proof), gives a beautifully modulated performance as a dedicated soldier who cares about his men and wants them all to make it out alive and sane.

Their casting is an interesting conceit because at the time of filming both actors were well known for playing characters that were diametrically-opposed to their Platoon roles. Due to his unconventional looks, Dafoe had cornered the market on playing bad-asses in films like To Live and Die in L.A. and Streets of Fire. Meanwhile, the more conventionally handsome Berenger was oftentimes cast as the good guy and/or romantic interest in such films as The Big Chill and Rustlers’ Rhapsody. His memorable walk on the dark side of human nature yielded him a Golden Globe. Platoon is a warts and all depiction of war and refuses to throw punches lightly; try not to feel conflicting emotions during what remains a gut-wrenching sequence that features some of the soldiers - homesick, tired, aggrevated, and made as hell - taking their pent-up frustration out on the inhabitants of a small farming community showing next-to-no mercy. We’re left with the message that war’s anything but pretty and Stone and company more than back that fact up.

Stars: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon, Keith David, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd, Mark Moses, Francesco Quinn, Richard Edson, and Dale Dye

Widescreen presentation; Audio Commentary by writer-director Oliver Stone; Audio Commentary by Military Advisor/Co-Star Dale Dye; Never Before-Seen Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Oliver Stone; Six Documentaries: "Creating the ’Nam," "One War, Many Stories," "Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon," "Snapshot in Time: 1967-1968," "Tour of the Inferno," and "Preparing for ’Nam;" Three TV Spots; a Photo Gallery; and the Original Theatrical Trailer.

Mack credits the 1991 Ridley Scott film "Thelma & Louise" with reconfirming his long-held desire to become a filmmaker in his own right. He attended the University of Wisconsin with a double major in Film and Film Studies and a minor in Journalism and Mass Communications. He’s the proud recipient of two consecutive awards for excellence in collegiate journalism from the Milwaukee (WI) Press Club, the country’s oldest press club.

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