Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Vietnam Week 2: War Is Not Nice

Out in the world of films there are more than a few war films. Perhaps this is because, as a species, we have so many wars. Whatever the reason is, it seems that we can never get tired of one war. The war that, if you weren't there, you can never imagine. Described by more than one solider as a hell on Earth and claimed 58,282 U.S. Solider's lives. The war in Vietnam.Yesterday’s filmed starred Martin Sheen, today we look at his son. Renowned more now for his drug abuse and his Tiger Blood breakdown, Charlie Sheen has become a bit of a joke in the media. But let us go back to when he was a serious actor and what could be more serious than Vietnam. This is Platoon.

Based on Oliver Stone's experience in Vietnam, the film’s events should arguably be a more truthful representation on the war. Young and naive recruit, Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) has just arrived in Vietnam for his tour of duty. He's one of the few men who chose to come to Vietnam after dropping out of college and he soon finds out that he is not the most respected of figures to to the lack of his war experience. Like most of the men in his platoon, he gets torn between two non-commission officers: the rough, tough, and indestructible Staff Sergeant Robert Barnes (Tom Berenger) and the nice, fatherly Sergeant Elias Grodin. (Willem Dafoe) In between fighting and smoking pot, the platoon experience ambushes, death, destruction, illegal killings, and rape - all of which start to push towards a psychological breakdown. This is not just a war in Vietnam, this is a war with a single platoon of men.

And that's before Sheen was known to be dirty...

It is hard nowadays, perhaps, to picture Sheen as a serious actor. Ironically, he got the role over Johnny Depp because Depp was not well known. How times have changed. But there was a reason that Sheen got the role: he is good. Starting off as an innocent college drop-out, desperate to do his part for his country but slowly his sanity starts to slip and we see his evolution from naive boy to hardened solider. But both stand out roles come from the polar opposite officers, both of which received Oscar nominations.That is Berenger as Barnes and Dafoe as Elias. Their hatred of one another is so clear and through their performances they manage to raise philosophical questions regarding the duality of man: does the war shape the men and if so how did they end on such opposite ends of the scale. It takes a really good performance to delve into philosophy. the supporting cast, too, are excellent additions to the film, especially John C. McGinley as Sgt. O'Neill, Barne's biggest supporter. The cockiest character throughout out the film until a request of his leaves him broken and fearful for the climax of the film, only to be followed by what would normally be considered good news, but not for O'Neill.

Despite not being the main part, Depp was still there.

Written and directed by a Vietnam veteran, Oliver Stone, there's no doubts about the realism of the film. The actors, prior to filming, had to participate in an intensive 14 day military training camp which finished the day before filming. There is method acting, and then there is this. Actors so exhausted they almost vomited, actors almost falling out of helicopters, actors who were just as happy to finish filming as they would be to leave 'Nam. A brilliantly directed film though. Some incredible action sequences and some horrifying moments. There is a real sense of the hell - as Taylor describes it - that was in and around Vietnam. With no front line, anyone could be attacked any time. It shows that the strong can be weak and the intelligent can break down. If I have one main complaint about the film it is the overuse of Adagio for Strings on the score. I'll die happy if I never hear it again.

Another good, gritty, realistic representation of the war in Vietnam. Again, it shows the true horror that the war installed in the fighters from both the U.S. army and the Vietnamese army and the innocent people that were just living their lives through the war.

Best Bit? [SPOILER ALERT] Well it has to be the iconic scene with Elias running from the Vietnamese before falling to his knees, heavily wounded, arms outstretched, taking bullet after bullet. Classic.

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