memories of the ’80s – Platoon

For the late 1980s, a war film based on a personal experience made it through the ranks to get the top prize: platoon_posters_86Platoon.

Written and directed by Oliver Stone, this film was based on his personal experiences as an infantryman during the Vietnam War. It was also his response to the film The Green Berets, which starred John Wayne.

Stone wanted to show the reality he experienced and did so with a story line focused on infantryman Chris Taylor played by Charlie Sheen.

He is sent to join a group near the Cambodian border, with two contrasting men in charge: Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe).

Taylor becomes friends with Elias and his men, wary of the hard-edged Barnes and his followers. As he witnesses over the top behaviour and killing of innocents as they pursue the enemy, Taylor reports on Barnes, who covers his tracks for a possible court martial by having Elias killed.

As the troop continues to spiral out of control, Taylor realizes that Barnes is coming after him, and that the war is being fought within the group and not against the enemy. Supporting roles of fellow soldiers were played by Kevin Dillon, Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Depp and Corey Glover.

Stone worked on the screenplay for Platoon for several years, working on other projects in order to convince studio executives to back his film. Making a deal with producer Dino de Laurentiis after working on Year of the Dragon and seeing the success of Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter, Stone finally got his deal, with the film going into production in 1986 in The Philipines.

Although filming happened during the chaos of the departure of President Ferdinand Marcos from The Philipines, the film was finished with a budget of US$6 million and released in December 1986.

As the first Vietnam Vet to write and direct a film about the war, Oliver Stone’s perseverance was rewarded with strong reviews and a box office that grew to $138.5 million in North America.

Platoon was nominated for an endless array of awards from the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Directors Guild of America, Independent Spirit and the Academy Awards, were it was nominated for seven awards including Best Picture and Best Director, which the film won in both categories.

This film was the first of a trilogy by Stone about the Vietnam War, showing the realities and costs of war to people.


About Waheeda Harris

A pop culture junkie with a penchant for exploring our planet.
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