Taglines: The first casualty of war is innocence.
Chris Taylor is a young, naive American who gives up college and volunteers for combat in Vietnam. Upon arrival, he quickly discovers that his presence is quite nonessential, and is considered insignificant to the other soldiers, as he has not fought for as long as the rest of them and felt the effects of combat.
Chris has two non-commissioned officers, the ill-tempered and indestructible Staff Sergeant Robert Barnes and the more pleasant and cooperative Sergeant Elias Grodin. A line is drawn between the two NCOs and a number of men in the platoon when an illegal killing occurs during a village raid. As the war continues, Chris himself draws towards psychological meltdown. And as he struggles for survival, he soon realizes he is fighting two battles, the conflict with the enemy and the conflict between the men within his platoon.
Platoon is a 1986 American war film written and directed by Oliver Stone, starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Charlie Sheen. It is the first film of a trilogy of Vietnam War films directed by Stone, followed by Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Heaven & Earth (1993).
Stone wrote the screenplay based upon his experiences as a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam, to counter the vision of the war portrayed in John Wayne’s The Green Berets. Platoon was the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War.
Platoon won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1986; it also won Best Director for Oliver Stone, as well as Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing. In 1998, the American Film Institute placed Platoon at #83 in their “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies” poll.
About the Story
In 1967, U.S. Army volunteer Chris Taylor arrives in Vietnam and is assigned to an infantry platoon near the Cambodian border. The platoon is officially led by the young and inexperienced Lieutenant Wolfe, but in reality the soldiers defer to two of his older and more experienced subordinates: the hardened and cynical Staff Sergeant Barnes, and the more idealistic Sergeant Elias.
Taylor is immediately sent out with Barnes, Elias and veteran soldiers on a planned night ambush for a North Vietnamese Army force. The NVA soldiers manage to get close to the sleeping Americans before a brief firefight ensues; Taylor’s fellow new recruit Gardener is killed and Taylor himself lightly wounded. After his return from hospital, Taylor bonds with Elias and his circle of marijuana-smokers while remaining aloof from Barnes and his more hard-edged followers.
During a subsequent patrol, three men are killed by booby traps and unseen assailants. Already on edge, the platoon is further angered when they discover an enemy supply and weapons cache in a nearby village. Barnes, through a Vietnamese-speaking soldier, aggressively interrogates the village chief about whether the villagers have been aiding the NVA, and cold-bloodedly shoots his wife dead when she snaps back at him. Elias then arrives, getting into a physical altercation with Barnes over the killing before Wolfe breaks it up and orders the supplies destroyed and the village razed. Taylor later prevents a gang-rape of two girls by some of Barnes’ men.
When the platoon returns to base, the veteran company commander Captain Harris declares that if he finds out that an illegal killing took place, a court-martial will ensue, leaving Barnes worried that Elias will testify against him. On their next patrol, the platoon is ambushed and pinned down in a firefight, in which numerous soldiers are wounded. More men are wounded when Lieutenant Wolfe accidentally directs an artillery strike onto his own unit before Barnes calls it off.
Elias takes Taylor and two other men to intercept flanking enemy troops. Barnes orders the rest of the platoon to retreat and goes back into the jungle to find Elias’ group. Barnes finds Elias alone and shoots him, then returns and tells the others that Elias was killed by the enemy. While the platoon is extracting via helicopter, they glimpse Elias, mortally wounded, emerging from the treeline and being chased by a group of North Vietnamese soldiers, who kill him. Noting Barnes’ anxious manner, Taylor realizes that he was responsible.
At the base, Taylor attempts to talk his group into fragging Barnes in retaliation when Barnes, having overheard them, enters the room and mocks them. Taylor assaults the intoxicated Barnes but is quickly overpowered. Barnes cuts Taylor near his eye with a push dagger before departing.
The platoon is sent back to the front line to maintain defensive positions, where Taylor shares a foxhole with Francis. That night, a major NVA assault occurs, and the defensive lines are broken. Much of the platoon, including Wolfe and most of Barnes’ followers, are killed in the ensuing battle. During the attack, an NVA sapper, armed with explosives, destroys the battalion headquarters in a suicide attack.
Now in command of the defense, Captain Harris orders his air support to expend all their remaining ordnance inside his perimeter. During the chaos, Taylor encounters Barnes, who is wounded and driven to insanity. Just as Barnes is about to kill Taylor, both men are knocked unconscious by an air strike.
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Francesco Quinn, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Johnny Depp, Corey Glover
Screenplay by: Oliver Stone
Production Design by: Bruno Rubeo
Cinematography by: Robert Richardson
Film Editing by: Claire Simpson
Art Direction by: Rodell Cruz, Sherman Williams
Music by: Georges Delerue
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: December 19, 1986