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"Platoon" - (25th Anniversary Edition) - {Blu-ray}
Wayne Klein
Studio: MGM/Fox
Release Date:
May 24/2011
Special Features:

Three part documentary, featurettes, two commentary tracks including one with writer-director Oliver Stone, TV spots, theatrical trailer, DVD version of the film Rating: R


There hasn't been a great film made about the Vietnam War. One could argue for Apocalpyse Now but it's not really about Vietnam but about the role of war in our society and the impact it has on our humanity. Platoon comes the closest to greatness although the fact that writer-director Oliver Stone tends to create characters that are little more than cliches lacking the depth that would have made the drama all the more powerful. Still, Stone does reach many of his goals with Platoon which is to relate the war from the common soldier's point-of-view the very view that he experienced it from himself. Stone wrote the film and came close to getting it produced in 1976 with Al Pacino starring in the film; it's too bad that didn't happen because Stone's film although it might have been compromised by studio interference at the time (this was, after all, still relatively close to the end of the war and there might have been considerable sensitivity to some of the scenes portrayed in the film), it also would have made it one of the first films to seriously deal with the war at that time. ***

Shot over the course of two months in the Phillipines for less than $7 million ( a relatively low budget at the time), Platoon takes into the war and let's us see it through the eyes of Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) and the film revolves around the fight between Staff Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) when their troops end up exacting revenge against a village suspected of being collaborators with the Viet Cong. Elias admonishes Barnes for the violent attack on those in the village. This conflict only increases and the survival of the platoon could be at stake as tensions continue to rise between the two men dividing their own soldiers as well. ***

As mentioned the weakness of the film isn't due to the actors or even Stone's well blocked direction but from his writing. He creates interesting conflicts and situations for his characters but fails to deliver characters that have the depth. Barnes is presented as a stereotypical villian. It's clear that Stone had to sketch out these characters relatively quickly so as to move towards the pivotal moment of the movie and rush us into the action. Having said that using both Barnes and Elias to represent the divided beliefs over HOW the war should be fought is a bit too elementary and simplistic. Again, it's clear WHY Stone did this but what's also clear is he didnt' HAVE to do it. This is a major flaw with almost all of Stone's films and in the hands of another director who might demand more from Stone the writer would have worked to the advantage of the film. If Stone had been working with another writer the demands of that other writer to flesh out these characters and make the film less morally black and white would have strengthened the film. The other issue is with the casting; Dafoe and Berenger do terrific work here giving us a glimpse of more complex characters than were written but actor Charlie Sheen just doesn't have the depth or ability to truly carry the film. If his father had been a decade or more younger HE could easily have done so (Martin Shee is one of our most under rated and talented actors) or even Sheen's brother Emilio Esteves could have pulled off the character creating more than what was on the page but Sheen just doesn't have the juice to pull it off. He's got good screen presence but lacked the training at this point in his career. Even with these flaws Platoon continues to be a powerful experience. ---

Image & Sound:

Platoon looks quite nice in its debut on Blu-ray; colors are rich without being oversaturated and the detail is superior to every edition that has come before. Clarity is quite good although the night scenes are still a bit murky with crushed blacks a challenging the clear presentation of the film. The day scenes look very nice with a crisp, sharp presentation for the most part. The transfer uses MPEG-4 AVC codec, is presented in 1080p and in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. ***

Audio sounds extremely good with a nice, active 5.1 DTS-HD mix although dialogue is never hard to understand. We also get the original 4.0 mix. Subtitles for English, Spanish and a couple of other languages are included as well. Spanish and French 5.1 mixes are available as well.

Special Features:

We get two interesting commentary tracks. The first commentary track with director Oliver Stone is probably the most interesting since he discusses his life experience in Vietnam, what he intended to convey in the film and the results as well as trivia about shooting on location. The second commentary track that is included features the military advisor for the film Dale Dye. ***

We also get ten deleted/extended scenes presented in SD. The featurettes from the previous DVD are present as well including One War, Many Stories which runs nearly a half hour. Flashbacks to Platoon is a three part documentary that was produced for the previous DVD. It is also presented in SD and gives us a pretty comprehensive background on the production of the film. Caputo and the 7th Fleet features reporter Phillip Caputo discussing the evauation of Saigon. Preparing for 'Nam focuses on Stone and other veterans discussing why they enlisted and the rigors of basic training and preparing for war. The only thing presented in high def here is the original theatrical trailer. TV spots are in SD. ***

MIA is Touring the Inferno the excellent hour long documentary on the making of the film; that's too bad because if it had been included this would be the ultimate edition of the film on home video. Perhaps it was due to some licensing issue but this documentary was produced for the laserdisc deluxe edition of the film and beats any of the special features here. ---

Final Words:

Platoon despite the flaws in Stone's script manages to be a powerful experience. Stone the director manages to elicit more out of the material than Stone the writer was willing to put into it. This anniversary edition features a nice looking if flawed transfer and some terrific extras carried over from the previous DVD edition of the movie. Recommended.


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