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See, now here’s a movie where Willem Defoe is brilliant. I really do think it’s all about the director. And you can add Oliver Stone to the list of director’s that can handle his talent (it’s a lonely list, the only other director being David Lynch).
In Platoon, we’ve got another movie at Vietnam. This one starring Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger and said Defoe and a young Johnny Depp and a young Forest Whitaker. The movie centers around Sheen’s character, Pvt. Taylor, and his loss of innocence and spiral into madness.
Throughout the movie, we get to hear Taylor writing letters to his grandma, essentially narrating the story. As a result of me actually enjoying this part of the story, I must add a corollary to the I comment I made about narration in my Boondock Saints review: narration is okay if A) You’re writing letters to your sweet grandmother and B) if you’re Charlie Kaufman.
So we see Taylor do the quintessential things that one would do whilst spiraling into madness. He smokes weed for the first time, he begins to smoke cigarettes, and he kills his first person.
And this is a good thing that he goes mad, because at the beginning of the movie he’s the whiniest son of a bitch you’ve ever seen. Collapsing and complaining about ants and shit. At the same time, though, it goes to show that not all soldiers start out hardasses–instead, that’s what they become as the war eats them alive.
And this movie’s focus is definitely on the internal effects of war than on the external effects of the Northern Vietnam Army and their ingenious leaf helmets.
So, holy shit. This wound up being an Oliver Stone movie I actually enjoyed. Though he generally has a penchant for making trash (like Born on the Fourth of July and the drudgery of JFK–only one of which can be blamed on Tom Cruise) like the upcoming W film starring Josh Brolin as the president, he has actually surprised me with this one. And I’m probably going along with some people in the Academy of Motion Pictures and yadda yadda yadda because they gave this film Best Picture in 1986. And I’d like to think that half of it was out of the surprise that it’s actually a great movie. Probably my third favorite movie about Vietnam, only surpassed by Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now.
So, kudos to you Mr. Stone. Maybe you should have never directed another movie after your opus.