Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Platoon (1986)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Platoon (1986)

In Oliver Stone's Best Picture-winning war film about combat duty in Vietnam in the late 1960s, a harrowing, visceral, realistic, and visually-shattering Vietnam-war film with many dark or night scenes of hand-to-hand and close-range combat with VCs:

  • during work duty, the first of many narrated (voice-over) messages of enlisted, idealistic rookie soldier, Private Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) to his Grandma about how he had given up college to volunteer for military service in Bravo Company (25th Infantry Division) somewhere near the Cambodian border; he talked about how he was a new recruit and his life wasn't worth much, and how he had made a big mistake: "Somebody once wrote: 'Hell is the impossibility of reason.' That's what this place feels like. Hell. I hate it already and it's only been a week. Some god-damn week, Grandma. The hardest thing I think I've ever done is go on point three times this week - I don't even know what I'm doing. A gook could be standing three feet in front of me and I wouldn't know it. I'm so tired. We get up at 5 am, hump all day, camp around four or five, dig a foxhole, eat, then put out an all-night ambush or a three-man listening post in the jungle. It's scary, 'cause nobody tells me how to do anything 'cause I'm new, and nobody cares about the new guys. They don't even want to know your name. The unwritten rule is a new guy's life isn't worth as much 'cause he hasn't put his time in yet - and they say, if you're gonna get killed in the Nam, it's better to get it in the first few weeks, the logic being you don't suffer that much. If you're lucky, you get to stay in the perimeter at night and then you pull a three-hour guard shift, so maybe you sleep three, four hours a night, but you don't really sleep. I don't think I can keep this up for a year, Grandma. I think I made a big mistake comin' here..."
  • the statement of the film's major conflict - the struggle for the "possession of the (my) soul" of Private Taylor as he continued his narration while on patrol in the rain - he remembered how he had given up college to volunteer for military service, and that he admired other lowly and disposable "grunts" (mostly teenaged male high-school dropouts from small towns, all poor, black and Hispanic) as the "heart and soul" of the war effort, used as infantry bait: "They're poor. They're the unwanted. Yet they're fighting for our society and our freedom. It's weird, isn't it? At the bottom of the barrel, and they know it. Maybe that's why they call themselves 'grunts', 'cause a grunt can take it, can take anything. They're the best I've ever seen, Grandma. The heart and soul..."
  • he finished his narration - the ending to his first letter - about how the war might teach him something about life as a rite of passage: "Maybe I finally found it way down here in the mud. Maybe from down here I can start up again and be something I can be proud of, without having to fake it, be a fake human being. Maybe I can see something I don't yet see, or learn something I don't yet know. I miss you. I miss you very much. Tell Mom I miss her too. Chris."
  • the controversial scene in a Vietnamese village where Taylor chastised a frightened, dim-witted one-legged man (Romy Sevilla) and forced him to dance by firing at his legs ("Dance, one-legger! Dance! Dance!...One-legged motherf--ker!"), and then war-mad Bunny (Kevin Dillon) went even further and repeatedly pummeled him in the face with the butt of his gun and bashed his brains in
  • a continuation of the scene - the malevolent and murderous Sgt. Bob Barnes (Tom Berenger) cold-bloodedly executed an innocent but talkative elderly Vietnamese woman (the wife of the local chief), and was prevented from murdering her young daughter (when he pointed a .45 at her head) by intervention from Sergeant Elias Grodin (Willem Dafoe); as the troops left, they burned the village to the ground
  • the foxhole scene of Taylor with Sgt. Elias during the night when Elias meditated and gave a 'critique' of the unwinnable war and the US' dire prospects: "The stars. There's no right or wrong in 'em. They're just there....What happened today is just the beginning. We're gonna lose this war....We've been kickin' other people's asses for so long, I figure it's time we got ours kicked"
  • the film's major conflict -- embodied by the establishment of two sides or lines in the schizophrenic battle, involving the struggle for the "possession" of Taylor's soul during a 'civil war' between Elias and Barnes, described by Chris concisely stated in another letter: (Taylor: "I don't know what's right and what's wrong anymore. The morale of the men is low, a civil war in the platoon. Half the men with Elias, half with Barnes. There's a lot of suspicion and hate. I can't believe we're fightin' each other, when we should be fighting them")
  • the long sequence during a Vietnamese jungle operation that became a punishing firefight ambush, when callous, scar-faced Staff Sergeant Barnes ordered an airlift evacuation for all the dead and wounded in his platoon. Then, the sociopathic Barnes stalked after Sgt. Elias who had become separated from the platoon in the deep jungle. When he located him, he calmly shot his long-time opponent three times in the chest, and left him for dead; t he malevolent Barnes told questioning Chris who came upon him: "Elias is dead. Fall back with the platoon...Yeah, he's back there about 100 meters...He's DEAD! There's 'gooks' all over the god-damn place. Get movin'."
  • however, as they departed from the helicopter pickup area, Chris noticed a seriously-wounded soldier ("They've got Elias") being pursued, retreating, and running (in slow-motion) from a group of NVA soldiers firing at him (Radio operator: "There's still one on the deck down there"); the saintly and compassionate Sgt. Elias staggered out of the jungle after being shot by sociopathic Sgt. Barnes and left for dead in the Vietnamese jungle - his arms outstretched upwards in slow-motion in a sacrificial, crucifixion pose (while Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings was played) as he was repeatedly shot and fatally hit by VC enemy forces - viewed from a chopper overhead in grandiose fashion - before he could be taken aboard; next to him in the chopper, Chris directed a knowing, revolted stare at Sgt. Barnes, realizing that Barnes had played a key role in Elias's death and had left him behind
Sgt. Barnes Shooting Elias
Wounded Elias Running Into View
Sgt. Elias' Crucifix Death Pose
  • after a major NVA assault, with most of the platoon killed, Taylor came upon a severely-wounded and insane Barnes and when the Sgt. grimly demanded: "Get me a medic. Go on, boy!", Chris refused and raised his rifle; Barnes contemptuously gave him permission: "Do it" - and he was shot three times in the chest as revenge and retribution for Sgt. Elias' death
Sgt. Barnes Shot Dead by Taylor
  • in the conclusion, wounded Chris' final overwhelming thoughts after being carried on a stretcher for evacuation by a helicopter as he saw the devastation below and craters full of corpses - ("I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy. We fought ourselves, and the enemy was in us. The war is over for me now, but it will always be there for the rest of my days...")

Private Taylor During Work Duty

On Patrol in the Rain

Bunny (with Taylor) Terrorizing a Vietnamese Man

Sgt. Barnes Threatening to Kill Daughter

Sgt. Elias Intervening Against Barnes

Torching the Village

Elias Meditating on the War

Wounded Chris' Final Thoughts


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