Of course, I know all about Oliver Stone and his type of film-making, and I've heard of the majority of his films. However, surprisingly, this is the first full one of his films I've seen. I know, right? And with all the Charlie Sheen craziness going on right now, this was pretty good timing. There's really no story to this film. It's mainly a platoon's journey through the Vietnam War. There's the new guy who actually enlisted, Chris (Charlie Sheen), who narrates the film. Then there are the two alpha males that split the platoon into two ways of thought. There's the weed-smoking nice guy, Elias (Willem Dafoe), and the hot-headed, war-torn crazy guy, Barnes (Tom Berenger). Also part of the platoon are King (Keith David), Big Harold (Forest Whitaker), Bunny (Kevin Dillon), O'Neill (John C. McGinley), Junior (Reggie Johnson), Wolfe (Mark Moses), Lerner (Johnny Depp), Warren (Tony Todd), among others.
This movie really ticked me off--probably in the ways Stone meant. I know Vietnam was an 'everybody loses' war that drove a lot of people crazy and do inhuman things. In that trail of thought, this movie captured the war very well. When the movie got to the village scene, I was so upset with what I was watching. It was just so brutal and insane.
I'm starting to wonder if war movies get some of the best ensemble casts, because practically every one I've watched so far has such a great group of actors. My favorite of this bunch were definitely Willem Dafoe and John C. McGinley. Dafoe was just awesome (and he gives the famous on-the-knees-arms-up shot from the film (which is on the poster/cover, as well). I always enjoy seeing McGinley in things outside of Scrubs, too. And I felt really bad for his character. He probably had one of the more tragic characters, but not for the reason you might think (if you haven't seen the film). Then, of course, you have crazy Mr. Berenger with his scarred-up face... a pretty terrifying villain. And then, yes, Charlie Sheen. Even he goes a little crazy during the village sequence, which feels almost out of character for the rest of the film--before and after (even immediately after). A lapse in sanity, perhaps?
I'm really not sure what else to say about it. The cinematography was good and the action was brutal. The whole film was a bit too dark and heavy for my tastes, and I almost immediately put in a goofy musical as soon as it ended just to balance things out. Regardless, it was still a very well-made movie with intense and well-acted characters. Otherwise, I don't think I have anything else to add. I'm not exactly sure how to rate it, because this is one of those quality vs. taste preference things. I think quality nudged it up one from what I would have otherwise given it... so consider it a low one of these: