Platoon | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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Oliver Stone's fictionalized memoir of the Vietnam War attempts to re-create, as well as any movie can, the physical and psychological realities of combat experience--the blood and guts and traumatized emotions splayed out like freshly exploded corpses in a mine field. Stone does a good job of it, though the project isn't as unique as he evidently thinks it is (e.g., Sam Fuller's Merrill's Marauders covered much the same territory, though with less intensity than Stone manages here) and some of his wider claims to social and historical relevance seem positively dubious. Stone wants to find large lessons in the experiences of ordinary men in battle, but it isn't clear that Vietnam has anything new to offer here (war is hell and somebody always loses, but the uniqueness of this particular conflict lies in areas away from the military arena: in politics, psychology, and history rather than battlefield phenomenology). For all the claims to naturalism, the film is resolutely schematic, with Stone running through a predetermined agenda of "typical" war experiences, and the attitudes that shape the drama are far from open-ended. The performances are all fine (Tom Berenger's especially as the dark angel of destruction), and as moral center of the action, Charlie Sheen joins a line of calculatedly flawed Stone heroes that runs from Scarface through Salvador. With Willem Dafoe and a superior supporting ensemble. (Golf Mill, Orland Square, River Oaks, Water Tower, Woodfield, Evanston, Evergreen, Hillside Square, Norridge, Yorktown)

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