Platoon (Blu-ray Review)

Appropriate for Memorial Day here in the U.S. today is a Blu-ray review about a film looking at the Vietnam War.  Simply called Platoon, it’s not the project that earned Oliver Stone his first Academy Award, but it certainly didn’t fly under the radar either, garnering four of the little golden statues for directing, film editing, sound, and best picture. Now, a quarter of a century later, arguably the greatest Vietnam movie of all time is now available on Blu-ray.  The film actually comes in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, which is a bit puzzling.  I say get rid of the dvd and give me a digital copy instead (what am I supposed to do with a dvd??).  That aside, we’ve got one very important movie to review here.


Many refer to our involvement in Iraq as another Vietnam.  What does that exactly mean?  To answer that question, we need to get a better understanding of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.  And to get that understanding, what a better way than starting at the ground level with Oliver Stone’s Platoon. Whatever your thoughts on the conflict, it’s safe to say Stone captured the very unglamorous aspects of conflict, both existential as well as those with a North Vietnamese enemy.  Stone, a Vietnam vet himself, used his experiences in the southeast Asian war to build both the story and characters in Platoon.

Charlie Sheen stars as new army grunt Chris Tayor; fresh from “the world” and now setting his feet firmly in the jungles of Vietnam.  He follows the leadership of two conflicting sergeants in his platoon; Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Elias (Willem Dafoe).  Both seasoned soldiers, Barnes is battle-hardened to the core without a sympathetic emotion left in him.  Elias is on the opposite end of the spectrum as he doesn’t let anger blind his decisions, ultimately becoming an ally to Chris on a side where not all your allies are on the same side as you.  The personalities don’t stop there though.  Actors Forrest Whitaker, Keith David, and even Johnny Depp appear in the film with very noticeable supporting roles.  The chemistry, and disruption thereof, was tremendously displayed in the film’s two-hour runtime.

The action is real, escaping the invincible mentality of old World War II films as well as those from the Rambo franchise.  Taylor soon sees his friends die in the most violent of ways while claiming enemy fatalities of his own with the squeeze of his trigger.  In an absolutely intense and dramatic manner, Platoon threads the needle of storytelling, hanging this impending threat of attack over the viewer’s head, even during those moments of settled discussion amongst the troops in their downtime.  The film is relentless in its attention-grabbing manner, something most films are not capable of from start to finish.  It had been many moons since I last watched this film and for all intents and purposes, I was pretty much a kid then.  Watching it now with new eyes and listening to my father’s experiences in Vietnam, I can say this film put me there closer than almost any other about this war.  It is gripping to the last word, the last expression, and while Oliver Stone may have changed a few things had he made this movie today, I will say that the final version he released in 1986 was nothing short of a masterpiece.


I was leary on how this would turn out.  Surprisingly the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and AVC encode projected a palette of rich colors such as the red soil native to Vietnam and the deep greens found throughout Asian rainforests.  Grain was pretty much present throughout most of the film, though it was certainly befitting of the mood and content on the screen.  There were moments of fine clarity where the grain was absent, although it was not so much to the point where pore whores would be able to pick up ultra miniscule details.  That would have been a little more welcomed had such realistic details been more visible.


If this disc has an achilles heel, it’s the sound.  For a film that won an Oscar for its sound, I’m left scratching my head in disbelief that Platoon on Blu-ray has a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless audio track that grossly under-performs.  The rear speakers are used with such infrequency that I actually stopped the movie on two occasions to see if I was having a connection issue.  It turned out not to be the case.  The soundtrack on this disc is really that weak.  Everything from falling rain to gunshots suffer at one point or another from a muffled fast food drive-thru effect.  This really sucked the emotion out of the moment at times.  Dare I go as far to say that it was a buzz-kill?  Why not?  It’s a war film that made certain scenes sound like a gun battle in the trunk of a car.  The front speakers get the brunt of the dirty work while the subwoofer dozes off throughout the movie.  One of the only highlights that’s up to par is when a helicopter flies overhead and can be hear through the rear channels.  Outside of that, it’s a very lackluster performance.

Special Features  

This disc united a nice little gathering of extras.  That’s that good news.  The bad news is all of them are in standard definition.  Some of which I don’t mind that since it’s raw black & white footage from the Soviet Union and Vietnam back in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Still, there are other special features here that would have benefitted from a more clear presentation.

  • Commentary with Oliver Stone
  • Commentary with Military Advisor Dale Dye
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – You also have the ability to watch these scenes with Oliver Stone’s commentary (11:31).
  • Flashback to PlatoonHere are three sub-features that cover the era of this film as well as the film itself.  They include “Snapshot in Time” which focuses on the situation in both the U.S. and Vietnam during 1967 to 1968, such as President LBJ and the Tet Offensive, “Creating the ‘Nam” which is a behind-the-scenes look at the film and the Philipinnes jungles where it was filmed, and lastly “Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon” which shows the effect the film had on others, namely Vietnam veterans (48:38).
  • Documentaries – Two documentaries are shown here.  “Preparing for the ‘Nam” shows footage of U.S. military basic training from the 60’s while speaking with some veterans’ take on the experience (6:36).  The other documentary is “One War, Many Stories” which provides insight from various Vietnam vets on what their experiences were like in the war (25:32).
  • Vignettes – The three extras in this category are “Caputo & the 7th Fleet” where author and journalist Philip Caputo talks about his experience witnessing the fall of Saigon and the mighty U.S. being pushed out by Asian peasant fighters (1:38).  Also found here is the “Dye Training Method” where military advisor Dale Dye (who’s also worked on films like Saving Private Ryan) discusses his method for getting actors into shape and into the military mindset (3:23).  Lastly we discover the “Gordon Gekko” vignette which tells how the Wall Street character got his name during work on Platoon (1:06).
  • Television Spots – Three TV-featured trailers are found here, each 31 seconds in length.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:44)

Final Thoughts  

While Platoon has its shortcomings on Blu-ray, it is still a must-buy.  Where the audio suffers, the overall content of the film is more than reason enough to include this film in your home library.  The cast is pretty incredible and would cost a mint to round up those same names in one project today.  As a result, you get a solid delivery of acting interwoven with a heavy and appropriate case of drama.  As far as I’m concerned, there are two exceptional Vietnam movies out there; Full Metal Jacket and Platoon (Hamburger Hill‘s not too shabby either). Both can be had together for less than $26 on Amazon and both are examples of great filmmaking, as well as accurate films of what happened during the Vietnam War.


4 Responses to “Platoon (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Apocalypse Now is my favorite Vietnam War film, but I really love Platoon as well. I got this disc, I’m excited to watch it.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Great film!

  3. Jiminy Criric

    Very powerful movie… Charlie can actually act… who knew?

  4. Sean Ferguson

    This was a good film but I haven’t seen it in a long time. Too bad about the sound.