Saturday, March 6, 2010

Platoon (Oliver Stone, 1986)

I found the viewing of Oliver Stone’s Platoon a truly reprehensible experience. The first half hour or so juts nice on-location wilderness shooting up against every war movie cliché and Vietnam War movie cliché specifically. There are horrible voice-overs, profanities over-emphasized as if the film were a 1970s holdover, the soldiers defined by how loudly they argue with each other, and there’s even an obligatory scene of that one soldier who’s showing off the photograph of his girl back home. Family, race, social standing—yes Platoon thinks it has something important to say about all of it. A lot of this was starting to thankfully wear off when the raid on the village sequence made me hate the film about fifty percent more vigorously than I did beforehand. Watching amoral American soldiers hold guns to little children’s heads, attempt rape on young women and crush a man’s skull with a rifle absolutely disgusted me, and it’s not the proactive form of disgust, which might result after a provocative, thought-provoking film that sets out to call my attention to a truly abhorrent real-world issue. Rather it’s a Vietnam war film, made well after the Vietnam war film was already its own subgenre, relying on cheap exploitation to make the audience feel petrified with shock and disgust, only to result in our young protagonist calling out his fellow animalistic soldiers and then in a dramatic long shot of the burning village, the accompanying operatic music meant to make us respond emotionally as only Oscar-hungry war movies can. As soon as the mean-old scar-faced sergeant Barnes murders noble Willem Dafoe and then lies about it, a plot twist so intent on making the audience cringe and accumulate hatred for the film’s posited villain, I decided I was going to disengage myself from the film completely. I knew it wasn’t worth caring about upon hearing all the hackneyed dialogue afterward: “I saw it in his eyes!” “Death? What do y’all know about death?” “There’s the way things ought to be and then there’s the way things are,” and the worst offender, “We did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. And the enemy…was in us.” The closing monologue, intended to conjure up metaphysical ideas and feelings about the war, is one of the worst things I have ever heard and everything else is an action movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment