Saturday, April 26, 2014


I watched this tonight on our local PBS channel, the first time I've seen it since it came out. I was hanging out with Ralph Bakshi when it did, in 1986, and I remember how impressed we both were. We felt it was the movie an entire generation had been waiting for.

At the time, the cast, the camera work, the soundtrack (using Samuel Barber's adagio for strings as the main soundtrack with just two or three contemporary songs from the Viet Nam era it was set in—1968-69), and almost everything about it seemed fresh and new and powerful.

Watching it tonight, not so much, The use of the music was still perfect, and some in the cast were as outstanding as I remember. But others, not so much. Charlie Sheen was yet to be "Charlie Sheen" and his performance was still powerful at times and appropriate most of the time, but there were still a few Charlie Sheenisms that mildly detracted from its power.

Tom Berenger was still good, but his performance had nowhere near the impact it did originally. I was so impressed by him in this the first time I saw it I would have voted for him to win the Oscar right then. But watching it tonight, he was good, but not anywhere near as menacing as I remembered and not quite as good as other movies I've seen him in since that I thought he killed in and were underrated (LOVE AT LARGE for one).

A very young Johnny Depp and Forrest Whitaker were entirely underused, while up and comers at the time like Keith David were overused (I've never found his acting to be convincing and yet he's had a long career, still going as far as I know, while others are long forgotten).

The one performance that was just as good this time as the first time I saw PLATOON was Willem Dafoe's. That was a pleasant surprise. Not a false moment nor a pushed one. Unlike some of the other performances (I remember Kevin Dillon being a revelation the first time and this time just being what he ended up doing in pretty much everything and continues to do, as with his character in ENTOURAGE).

All in all, worth seeing, with some scenes as hard to watch as they originally were, because of their realistic portrayal of the horrors of war, even if others were newly difficult to watch because of their overcooked acting and directing. But all in all not as great as I remember.

Interestingly, it came out around the time of FULL METAL JACKET which was compared unfavorably to Stone's PLATOON at the time (though he was worried it would be the other way around). But I've seen FULL METAL JACKET a few times since it was first released, and it only gets better over time for my taste, even if the combat scenes don't seem as realistic in their setting and action as PLATOON at times.

Wonder what people will think of them in another thirty years.

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