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MGM Studios DVD presents
Platoon (1986)

"Maybe I finally found it, way down here in the mud. Maybe from down here I can start up again, be something I can be proud of, without having to fake it, be a fake human being."
- Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: August 21, 2000

Stars: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe
Other Stars: Keith David, John C. McGinley, Johnny Depp, Kevin Dillon, Forest Whitaker
Director: Oliver Stone

MPAA Rating: R for (war time violence, language, drug use, and one sexual situation)
Run Time: 02h:00m:00s
Release Date: August 15, 2000
UPC: 027616851567
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A+BB+ C-

DVD Review

The following is an excerpt from film critic Roger Ebert's review of Oliver Stone's Platoon:

"It was Francois Truffaut who said that it's not possible to make an anti-war movie, because all war movies, with their energy and sense of adventure, end up making combat look like fun. If Truffaut had lived to see Platoon, the best film of 1986, he might have wanted to modify his opinion. Here is a movie that regards combat from ground level, from the infantryman's point of view, and it does not make war look like fun. "

It is this reviewer's opinion that truer words are very rarely spoken. Even though war has never seemed fun in my eyes, I strongly believe that Hollywood has a tendency to glorify the matter. And while Platoon was not the first anti-war movie to come along by any means, it remains one of the strongest statements made against war ever to be put on film. Platoon is perhaps the greatest film ever made about the horrors of the Vietnam War.

The film is a strongly personal one for director Oliver Stone as it draws upon his own experiences of the war in 1967. Charlie Sheen plays Chris Taylor, the film's protagonist and central character, based on Stone himself. Chris is a college dropout that has been thrown into the war who suddenly finds himself fighting not only his fears, but physical exhaustion and an anger that is starting to grow inside of him as well. The film's central conflict pits the platoon's Sergeant Elias (Dafoe), a two-year veteran who remains spiritually whole, against Sergeant Barnes (Berenger), a lifer who lost his humanity along the way.

Platoon will not appeal to everyone. There are those who say it is too dark, too depressing, and ultimately has no moral value whatsoever—those people might be too close-minded to see its brilliance. Films like this don't come along often enough in my opinion; the ones that in thirty years will be looked upon as one of the most influential films of its time. Much like 2001, Taxi Driver, Fight Club and The Thin Red Line, Platoon deserves a spot among the greatest and most daring pieces of cinema ever made.

Winner of four Academy Awards® in 1986, the onscreen presentation reflects those achievements. Stone took one home for Best Director and was nominated for Best Screenplay. The film also took Best Picture honors as well as awards for sound and editing. While I consider it one of Stone's best (an honor I go back and forth on daily with JFK sometimes claiming the top spot), it does not reflect his best work behind the camera. His later works were more technically skilled with better editing that started with JFK and has become more of an annoyance in his more recent films. The cinematography by frequent Academy Award®-nominee Robert Richardson is fantastic and captures every environment presented—from the sunny base camp scenes to the rainy shots in the jungle, Richardson paints a beautiful picture. Look up his filmography and have fun counting how many great films he has lensed. The music, editing, and generally everything else about the film are top-notch.

The cast is just as good. Charlie Sheen plays the role of Chris with the right balance of intensity and shyness. It is a role that he will always be remembered for, with good reason, as he has not matched its caliber since. Berenger and Dafoe are perfectly cast as the dueling sergeants for which they each received Best Supporting Actor nominations. Other supporting roles are filled by then unknown actors such as Keith David (There's Something About Mary), Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow), John C. McGinley (Office Space), and Forest Whitaker (Good Morning Vietnam). Each does a fine job, but both David and McGinley carry the weight of the supporting parts and stand out among this ensemble cast.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review:
I was only 9-years-old when Platoon was in theaters, so my exposure to the film had been limited to cable television and previous digital video formats. With that noted, I can honestly say that this new anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer offers the best presentation I have seen. The earlier Pioneer laserdisc and Artisan DVD were both fine transfers but neither holds a candle to this remastered MGM version. It seems to benefit from the anamorphic transfer and has a more film-like look to it. The black levels are about the same for both DVD's but I did notice a bit less grain in the Artisan release. The real difference between the two is that the MGM version has a bit more defined coloring and sharpness in the jungle scenes. Fleshtones are fine and I noticed no shimmering or artifacts of any kind. Overall a nice transfer, yet a total toss up as to which version is in fact better-looking.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review:
While most war films put on DVD in recent years have benefited from the "you are there" feel with superb audio mixes, Platoon creates comes close but with a bit less oomph. The disc offers a 5.1 Dolby Digital track that, while not completely enveloping and a bit uneven, does the job. The front soundstage is mixed nicely and dialogue is clear coming from the center channel, but the problem lies in the surrounds. When active, they really come alive with helicopters, rain and music, but that is not nearly often enough for a film with so much potential. The .1 LFE channel creates nice bass, but not enough of it. A Spanish 2.0 channel is also available.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:58m:43s

Extra Extras:
  1. Collectible Booklet
Extras Review:
A trailer, that is all we get? Where is the meat on this disc? I suppose one can't get too angry about this package as it is widely available at a very low price (around $13.99). I have both the $125 laserdisc and the previous Artisan release, so I have to wonder why this MGM release lacks everything that made those two discs perfect. MGM states that it was a rights issue, ok, I can buy that. But the documentary on the previous discs is among the best I have ever seen, and the commentary tracks by Stone and Dale Dye were fascinating. It is a shame, but at least the theatrical trailer is available with Smokey Robinson's great The Tracks Of My Tears used in the background.

Spanish and English subtitles are also offered.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

I am not sure how many times I can say that this movie is perfect. The disc on the other hand is not. If you can find the previous releases pick them up without hesitation. If you think you'd find satisfaction in just the movie itself, then the under $15 price tag is a nice deal. You owe it to yourself to at least own this film—it belongs in every collection. Recommended.


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