with an afterword by Mike Lehman
'Tis the season. It's a bitterly cold New Year's Eve Eve in East Central
Illinois, and we're in the mood to sit around the warm fireplace of
a depressing Vietnam movie. We couldn't get our hands on The Deer
, so Platoon
will have to suffice. On grainy VHS no
The film opens with soldiers in the jungle and the sense that something
bad will happen almost immediately. Through the foliage and noise,
it's hard to tell whether that is Charlie or Martin Sheen, Platoon
or Apocalypse Now? Is that Willem Dafoe?
:19 Something bad happened.
:26 First casualty (American), harsh words.
:28 Daylight shot, soothing orchestral music, helicopter, a case
of beer is replaced by latrine duty.
:31 Politics: "The poor are always being fucked over by the rich."
:32 Drugs, Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit."
:34 Homoeroticism, well, sadohomoeroticism.
:25 More sexism.
:38 Full cast musical number, fade to daylight jungle, New Years
Day 1968, 34 years ago from the day after tomorrow.
:40 Something bad is about to happen.
:42 Any second now.
:43 Yep. (American) Casualty. Eerie bamboo flute flourishes.
:47 Pig casualty.
:49 Grenade tossed into underground shelter containing Vietnamese
women and children. Maybe this is The Deer Hunter after all.
:50 I sense an impending brutal murder of possibly innocent Vietnamese.
:50 Yep. Are you going to mention this in your naive letters to Grandma?
:54 "Let's do the whole fucking village." (refrain)
:57 Doing the village.
:59 Attempted gang rape.
1:03 "Somebody ought to frag his ass."
1:03 Exterior: jungle night.
1:09 Willem Dafoe needs a helmet.
1:17 No, wait, this is Full Metal Jacket.
1:19 Loading the wounded onto a helicopter.
1:21 Willem Dafoe is being killed again.
1:23 The plot thickens, or at least becomes apparent.
1:25 A murderer delivers a lecture on marijuana abuse.
1:27 Ten years in prison is the penalty for killing an enlisted man
(an enlisted American man).
1:28 Interior: airborne helicopter overflying a ruined Vietnamese
1:30 Exterior: Cambodia, day, sustained high pitch.
1:33 Good acting.
1:36 A bad feeling.
1:37 A bad feeling.
1:40 "Gooks on the fucking perimeter."
1:44 Look out for the tree.
1:45 This is one of those two hour Vietnam movies. Maybe this is
The Killing Fields.
1:46 It's hard to write and keep track of the casualties at the same
time. No music, just gunfire.
1:48 That napalm was so powerful it made everything black and white
for a second. Or maybe that was the videocassette.
1:51 Exterior: jungle, morning. Corpses. A complicated moral decision.
Birds chirping, high-pitched drone.
1:53 Bodies. Wistful orchestral music.
1:54 The plot is exhausted. But the war must go on.
1:56 Orchestral motife. Helicopter lifts off in slow motion through
clouds of amber dust bearing wounded protagonist Sheen. Voiceover
narration. Trite. "The enemy was in us." Letter to grandma, or internal
monolog? "A goodness, a meaning to this life." Fitting music. Keith
Davis gave a fine performance. Was that Johnny Depp? "Adagio for Strings"
by Samuel Barber.
Note on the Afterword:
It is my fear that my cowatcher Mike will find my poststructuralist
dissection of this powerful film to be in poor taste. It was not my
intention (nor the filmmakers') to trivialize the actual Vietnam war.
"It's too much like real life."