Platoon (1986) Directed by Oliver Stone
I have not watched a movie for over a week. I needed a break. Other things on my mind. But then, I had this completely random thought about Willem Dafoe. It was about his cock. Has a Hollywood actor been so exposed on the popular screen? Hang in there on this one, I'm maybe trying to justify another men on a mission film on this blog! Dafoe's dignity was not spared in the overly serious The Last Temptation of Christ, his libido was overworked in the dire Body Of Evidence and his nether regions were brutalized in the sadistic Antichrist. He's the guy that goes the extra yard, he's not afraid to bare his all, emotionally and literally. Dafoe has retained credibility despite being in a Mr Bean movie or a bunch of straight to video fair, the roll call of great to good films is impressive: Light Sleeper, Wild At Heart, Mississippi Burning, The English Patient, Affliction, Auto Focus,The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The random cock thoughts gave me license to go back to Platoon, the film that established Dafoe as such a unique and risk taking actor.
Dafoe plays the Christ like Sgt Elias, the good soldier who pits his wits against the evil macho of Tom Berenger's Sgt Barnes. This conflict plays against the backdrop of Oliver Stone's autobiographical Vietnam story. Of course, this being Stone nothing is subtle, heavy symbolism is to the fore. There's also very little originality here, the film owes a lot to The Deer Hunter and mostly to the king of Hollywood Vietnam pictures, Apocalypse Now. As if to acknowledge Platoon's debt, stone casts Charlie Sheen (son of Apocalypse Now's Martin) as his on screen alter ego Chris, who, in Apocalypse Now fashion, supplies the voice over for this violent writes of passage picture.
I'm not saying Platoon is bad, re-visiting it after many years the films' own power stands up with an ability to be disturbing and moving. Stone injects his won political view on the futility of this war, depicting the casual unjustified genocide of an enemy we never really see. The use of Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings, although now a classical cliche, does work in this context, adding extra pathos to many scenes. There's also a heavy suggestion that Elias and Chris are lovers. This homoerotic aspect of the picture could have been explored further. If Platoon has a fault it's that it descends to easily into revenge picture in the final third, so Platoon loses a bit of it's focus.
As well as bringing Dafoe and Sheen into the spotlight, Platoon established Stone as a directorial heavyweight, winning Oscars and becoming hugely successful. Stone also introduced a bunch of young actors to the screen in this picture, Johnny Depp, Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon and the creepy John C McGinley. But Dafoe casts a spell over this picture, his Elias is a fine creation. What a face, what sexual energy. Man Love.