Monday, November 28, 2011

Honouring 700: 25 Reasons Why PLATOON is my Favourite Film

In honour of surpassing 700 posts on Andy Buckle's Film Emporium I thought I would do something I was yet to do and focus a post on my favourite film, Oliver Stone's Platoon. Here are 25 reasons why I recently selected it as my favourite film.

1.  “Rejoice O Young Man in Thy Youth” – Ecclesiastes

2. A harrowing early image. New American troops arrive in Nam and react to body bags being shipped out at the same time.

3. The wonderful dramatic score and the main theme - 'Adagio for Strings' by Samuel Barber.

4. With Taylor (Charlie Sheen) cramping up and dehydrating, Elias (Willem Dafoe) agrees to haul Taylor’s excess baggage, but sarcastically and flirtatiously (many have questioned Elias’ sexuality) reminding him to “next time check with him first”.

5. Platoon is all about the soldiers and I love the bonds that develops between the characters throughout the film and the snippets of insight we are given into each individual. King (Keith David), upon being told off about his spelling ("It ain't D-E-R-E, it's D-E-A-R. King, damn you're dumb"), claims that his girlfriend "don't read too good no how." Junior (Reggie Johnson) complains to Big Harold (Forrest Whitaker) about his pork sandwich and then impatiently orders Taylor to get his 'dick skin' into digging the fox hole. I find it amusing.

6. Taylor: "Hell is the impossibility of reason. This is what this place feels like. Hell."

7. Elias to O' Neill (John C. McGinley): Hey O'Neill...take a break! You don't have to be a prick every day of your life you know."

8. This shot. It's like the soldiers are already in the firing line.

9. Taylor is blamed for sleeping on watch during an ambush, but because he is the 'fresh meat' the other platoon members quench his protest - "Excuses are like assholes Taylor. Everybody got one."

10. Barnes: "Tag him and bag him."

11. Taylor, King and Crawford are instructed to clear out the crap buckets after stealing beers from the officers tent. Great scene. Crawford is disgruntled by the politics within the unit - "O'Neill has got his nose so far up Top's arse he's got to be Pinocchio" - while King's reaction to Taylor admitting that he volunteered is great - "Oh I see. What we've got ourselves here is a crusader. Shiit."

12. Taylor joining the potheads, and thinkers, of the platoon in the Underworld - "Feeling good's good enough."

13. Bunny (Kevin Dillon), a psychotic individual who revels in the Vietnam environment, biting a chunk out of his finished beer can and giving it to his LT. "Like that?"

14. I have it on authority that the actors were actually high when they filmed this scene, which would have made it a lot of fun - dancing and singing along to "The Tracks of My Tears."

15. Just like Chris and the platoon are divided between Elias and Barnes, viewers also feel somewhat divided. You feel compelled to side with Elias because he is jaded and righteous and seems to care about his men, but you can't help but admire Barnes' hardiness, his determination to win the war and ability to survive.

16. The Vietcong were notorious for building tunnels and setting devastating booby traps. I researched the Vietnam War for a high school assignment, around the same time I watched this I think, and focused on the weapons used by the American and NVA soldiers, and examples of the traps set by the Vietcong. One notable sequence in the film captures the effects of these inventions in a harrowing way.

17. The siege on the village. The film's dramatic centre-point. The rising tension within the Platoon reaches a crescendo. Taylor later in the film declares, "we fought ourselves...and the enemy was in us" and that he was "born from those two fathers" (meaning Barnes and Elias). While not easy viewing, this scene features some unforgettable moments - Barnes killing one of the villagers illegally and pulling a gun on a child, Taylor losing it and sadistically harassing a crippled villager, and the final shot of the entire platoon leaving with the village burning to ground behind them.

18. The ambush and ensuring firefight - Taylor's solo mission to rescue Lerner (Johnny Depp), and his reaction to taking down a gunner with his grenade.

19. Elias and Barnes facing off.

20. This infamous scene. Unforgettable.

21. Barnes' 'I am reality' speech.

22. Alex @ And So It Begins recently mentioned this scene on his blog, but the way that King looks back at the jungle following the news that his orders for deportation have come in, is one of the most touching moments of the film.

23. Francis (Corey Glover), having survived the final battle, stabs himself in the leg to ensure he has an injury bad enough to be transported out. Taylor is also seen holding a grenade when he is found, leading many viewers to consider the possibility that he was contemplating suicide. Powerful stuff.

24. Taylor's fist pump to Rhah (Francesco Quinn), and final salute to Vietnam. I have adopted two similar gestures to my personal mannerisms.

25. The first time I watched this film I have to declare: I didn't like it. I was young, and I was horrified by some of the content (drugs, swearing and lots of violence) and just disappointed, having gone in with high expectations. I had seen it ranked high on a 'Best of' list. I actually watched it a couple of days later (I had hired the VCR copy out for a week) and found it to be the single greatest film experience of my life. No two viewing experiences could have been more different, I raced to my mother in another room and declared it my favourite film. I have seen the film countless times since, and it remains #1.


  1. I am not proud to say I have not seen this film. Well, I did when I was a kid but I haven't watched it since and I have absolutely no memory of it. I'm going to go out and rent it as soon as possible. I can't put it off any longer.

    I do lists like these all the time for some of my favorite films. I've got a few in the works for the coming weeks.

  2. Wonderful, loving post, Andy. Great stuff here. My favorite war film. I could simply list 25 "amens", I suppose, but instead I'll just say you also think of Kevin Dillon as Bunny rather than as Johnny Drama? I can only assume you do. If so, are you and I the only ones?

    And congratulations on 700.

  3. As much as I despise Oliver Stone these days for the crap films he's been making lately and his bullshit liberal politics. I do love this film although I much prefer Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket in terms of Vietnam War movies.

  4. @ Tyler - You really should see it. I'd be interested in seeing what you thought of it. I like your posts - they were an influence on my decision to do this.

    @ Nick - Thanks Nick. I really wanted to write about the film, but not in the form of a review. I felt like I would think about the film in a different way if I was reviewing it. I do indeed think of Kevin Dillon as Bunny, though he was also the best character in Entourage. I am convinced the guy is a good actor solely by comparing the two roles. But he'll always be Bunny to me - the crazy motherfucker who can bite through a can.

    @ Steven - I love the two films you mention also, esp. Apocalypse Now, but neither mean as much to me as this one. I don't like Stone at all, but his early films did have a profound effect on me as a viewer. The last film of his I enjoyed was Any Given Sunday, but since then - train wreck.

  5. Haven't seen this movie in ages. Loved it as a kid. Certainly many reasons to love this film, one of the best war movies of all-time!

  6. @ Castor - I think so, yes. You should give it another look, Castor - with these moments in mind :-)

  7. Fantastic, inclusive post of a great movie. And that scene... God, kills me everytime.

  8. King is my favourite character in the film. Every time I see one of the actors in Platoon in another film I attribute them to their character in Platoon. Hey, it's Keith David, he was in Platoon. Hey, it's Johnny Depp, he was in Platoon. ;-)

    Even though King can't spell too well, he's a perceptive, realistic individual - and every scene featuring him and Taylor is a memorable one.

  9. saw the first time in way back 86, along with the Top Gun, questioned myself, is it true,beacuse I was in Delhi University Ist year student. later, joined Air Force. Worked with army guys in the front, always found like being a Chris. That time I felt I already seen a classic which is still my best rank movie so far, that time to this time. Barne's character was the most observing.

  10. Stone's best film after JFK. Good choice for all time #1 though.