Movie Analysis (Platoon)

English 101 10/27/12 Final Draft Movie American Perseverance The Vietnam War is a controversial subject no matter which way you look at it. In 1986, Oliver Stone released a movie that gave a unique perspective of Vietnam. His movie Platoon was written based on his experience in Vietnam as an infantryman.

Stone tells a side of the war that only a veteran can tell and he does it without a sugar coating. He tells of the all the great people that fought alongside him as well as things that some might not want to hear about that you never would have known.

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The movie is set in 1967 during the peak of American involvement in Vietnam. A young college student named Chris Taylor drops out of school to join the army infantry division. Not long after arriving, Chris’ view on the war and the soldiers who fight begin to change after he witnesses his comrades’ rape and murder innocent Vietnamese villagers.

The incident causes the platoon to divide into to groups, one lead by Sgt. Barnes who condoned the incident, and the other by Sgt. Elias who was against it. The groups continue to battle each other despite the fact that they should be focused on the North Vietnamese.

When Chris first arrives in Vietnam the differences between Elias and Barnes emerge very early. On their first patrol, Chris gets too exhausted to walk and collapses on the trail.

Sergeant Barnes is harsh with him, even calls him a “pathetic puke”. Sergeant Elias helps him up, gets him some water, and lightens his load for him. That’s the first time you see the upcoming division of the platoon. Barnes is very battle-hardened and does whatever it takes to get things done at any cost. He believes that the Vietnamese don’t need to be treated like people.

He has a “If they aren‘t your friend, they are your enemy” approach to the war.

Elias is more compassionate and understanding, more of a moral leader rather than a commanding officer. He often spends his free time with the men and seems to know them well. As the new recruits settle in, they seem to gravitate to who they share the same values with. In the movie, the leaders have a big impact on their soldiers. Chris even writes his grandma about feeling like he “was born of two fathers”. Everyone should be able to relate to this.

The best example is American politics.

Primarily we have two parties, republican and democrat. I know there are a lot of other parties but in this case I’m just covering the more influential ones. Each side has set policies and values. People tend to follow the party they share the most in common with. Also, it is considered unacceptable to be in a party and disagree with their set policies.

There is a scene in the movie where Sgt. O’Neil (a follower of Barnes’) asks for some time off. O’Neil is worried he’s going to die before he sees his family again; Barnes replies “everybody has to die sometime”.

Barnes was upset because that’s not his group’s normal “policy”. This kind of system makes progress very difficult.

If everyone is more concerned with making someone else look bad over making progress towards the collective goals of the “platoon/country” then meeting those goals is almost impossible. When you add in the fact that a bi-partisan system discourages individual thinking and compromise, it starts to tear itself apart. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is where Barnes sends Elias and 3 men to secure their position then withdraws the platoon as soon as he leaves.

Barnes then goes into the jungle under the pretense of rescuing Elias, instead he shoots him. That just ends up causing more animosity in the platoon, especially when Chris tells the others he suspects Barnes of murdering Elias.

This again is destructive to the platoon and its overall goals. Human nature is very primitive in this way. Even as young children we constantly divide ourselves into groups based on cookie-cutter standards. During your childhood you might remember being on the playground and how everyone had their “hang out” spots.

Maybe in high school you had elections for class president or whatever the term is the kids are using these days.

You might not be a politician but that doesn’t mean you’ve never had first hand experience with the same issues. Just about everybody has or has had a job. If you’ve ever had a job where there were a lot of employees then you’ve seen people willingly separate themselves into groups. I can’t speak for everybody but I think most would agree that certain personalities just don’t mix well no matter what the situation. It is our nature to be different but that shouldn’t mean that we have to be intolerant to other people’s ideas.

It was said that listening to others was one of George Washington’s biggest strengths.

He would often scrap his own ideas for another’s even if it were only minutely better. He also said that political parties would ruin the country. The point is that even in 1780 he knew the danger of bipartisanship. The movie Platoon was made to show the horrors of war and the way of life for the men who fought it. The sacrifice these men made were beyond anything that could be expected from a normal person.

Even though they fought each other more than the enemy, when they needed to they pulled together and got the job done.

To think even though they had very different values and morals they still worked together to achieve a great feat. America did lose the Vietnam war but the way the soldiers worked together was like a well-oiled machine. Barnes even said “if one part breaks, the whole machine breaks down”, those words are true whether you like him or not. Our country’s machine may need a repair, but despite our its current problems, the way these men rose to the occasion for their country gives me faith that the people will do whatever needs to be done to fix it.