War movies always taste better when served with a strong message. That’s the way I’ve always felt, but at the same time films such as Platoon, which practically thrust their meaning down your throat, don’t go over well with everyone. Platoon is a classic story of good versus evil; an epic battle over one man’s soul with the godly Sergeant Elias on one side and the brutal Sergeant Barnes on the other. Unlike some war movies to follow, Platoon actually has something to say, and unlike many that preceded it, the performances delivered are overall excellent. Willem Defoe warms up to his eventual role in The Last Temptation of Christ by basically playing Jesus here and Tom Berenger shapes Barnes into a villain who is entirely despicable, yet retains some small shred of respect because he has convinced himself that he is doing what is right. In a scene late in the film when O’Neill, one of his crowd, begs for several days of leave, Barnes turns him down and comes across as not a man governed by hatred, but by duty. Berenger does an impeccable job of creating a monster built by years of orders in the name of war. However, there is enough focus cast upon the other members of the platoon that the horrific experience of war feels more complete. Stone wants us to believe that war is as much about fighting oneself as fighting the enemy. I have no reason to doubt him.



April 24, 1987


Oliver Stone


Oliver Stone


Orion Pictures Corporation


Action, Drama, War




120 minutes