Turning to dusk on the final day. This year’s festivities have been eventful and, for the first time in years, consistently exhilarating. Likely aided by a large number of great films, I’ve managed to keep my energy level and my reviews (relatively) informative. I don’t think more than a few have been over 1,000 words, but so be it. Let’s end on a bang: Platoon.
War films are fairly common for a war-crazy country such as my own. We like wars, as George Carlin once said, and we also like making films about them. Seriously, look at all of these. Unfortunately, when it comes to war, there’s only so much we can say about them. Most are anti-war, showcasing the horrors of all-out violence between two countries of people. Platoon is like most, which may or may not be to its detriment.
“As a young and naive recruit in Vietnam, Chris Taylor faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.”
It opens with a musical score very familiar to me: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” High school musical theory was where I first heard it, and since then it has managed to enrapture me with every listen. Something about it soothes me, despite the innately somber tone. An absolutely marvelous work of music that I would recommend everyone listen to.
Though my adoration for it holds, even it can become cumbersome in large doses. As mentioned, it plays in the very first scene of the film, which I found slightly odd. Then it plays again roughly a half an hour later. Then again. And again. Just when I think it was over, it plays a final time near the very end. Some critics bemoan the use of overly sentimental tracks over emotionally powerful scenes, citing it as “manipulative,” and this is a case where even I had to squint in disbelief.
Then there’s Charlie Sheen. Not to say he did a poor job, yet compared to the charisma and power contained in the cast around him, it’s almost unfair. Like a kid amongst men, which I suppose is the point. Only at no point did I find him entirely convincing or captivating. This is Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger’s show. Even some side characters come across as more memorable.
When the sets are in place, the battles get going, and the screams are muddled by the chaos of war, it’s exciting. Almost abjectly speaking, there’s a strange fascination with the reality of humanity’s worst aspects. Completely overtaken by the frustrations of military “politics” and the temptation of power, one’s true self can take shape. That sort of thing comes through with many in this film.
Like with the music, there are a decent amount of points that come off as a wee bit too sentimental. The allusion to anti-war undertones is apparent enough in the bloodshed of war and the weight of everything ripping the characters’ psyches apart. Do you really need to have a character perish in the most dramatic, hammy fashion possible?
I was more taken by the scenes of soldiers playing around in their camps. Getting chummy in the pockets of respite that their situation provides. That, and the scene where they raid a small village. Seeing the demons rise from the characters forces the brutal nature of war to a head. Predictable as it may be to anyone who fancies war films, it’s no less effective. Seeing the troops walk away from the blazing village as they carry kids on their shoulders and backs was heartbreaking.
A little rough in places, with the shakiness of Sheen’s performance a little distracting at first, Platoon nonetheless manages to endear itself as a work of tragedy. Upon the establishment of the “politics” of the regime, as well as the whispers of American incompetence on the higher end, I couldn’t look away. Wouldn’t be much of a war film without something to grip. It came here through the strength of the atmosphere and (specific) characters.
Pretty solid way to end the month. Wish it could’ve been more, but it is what it is. My desire to write is dwindling as I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Like a war I’ve been waging against myself, the white flag is about to be waved. Watch it if you like anti-war war films. Is that contradictory?
Final Score: 7/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!
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Thank you for your time, and thank you for joining me this year for the March of the Movies. Have a great rest of your day. Until next year!