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Research Papers on the Movie Platoon

Platoon research paper due and don’t know how to start it? How about like this?

Whether or not one “buys in” with every aspect of Oliver Stone’s work, one cannot help but be greatly impressed by his films for these are compelling works. Whatever the imperfections of Mr. Stone’s movies in terms of their historicism, they make important points and are always thought provoking. This director’s finest films are protest films and these, taken in the aggregate, offer a comprehensive critique of America in the last forty years of the 20th century. This body of work includes

  • PlatoonPlatoon
  • Wall Street
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • JFK
  • Nixon

If we subject these films to what might be called meta-analysis, then the general picture that emerges is one of America as being morally dualistic, a kind of Manichean place in which good and evil, both powerful, struggle for the soul of the country and for the souls of individual Americans. In this struggle the forces of evil usually have the upper hand for they are embedded in, and can manipulate and deploy, the resources of “the system,”—which has an evil life of its own and which cannot be controlled by any one person—to their own advantage. Individuals are occasionally able to overcome the system, to break free of it, and to emerge as autonomous and dignified human beings, but this requires heroic effort. For Stone the meaning of life is seen as residing in this struggle. This is powerful stuff in a literary sense and it and gives these movies both epic grandeur and tragic dignity. One of the finest—perhaps the finest–of Oliver Stone’s films is Platoon, a movie that is based on Stone’s experience in Vietnam where he served for 15 months with the 25th Infantry in 1967-8.

Platoon - Coming of Age

Platoon is a bildungsroman, a coming of age story in which the hero is a young person “who sets out in life with either no aim in mind or the wrong one” and who “finally reaches maturity”. In the film a young man, Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), has enlisted in the infantry and been sent to Vietnam. He is assigned to a combat infantry platoon that is ostensibly commanded by a second lieutenant, but in which real control is in the hands of First Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), a scarred, combat efficient, sociopath. Barnes is a war lover, a man not unlike Buzz Morrow in John Hersey’s novel about World War II, The War Lover. Chris is befriended by one of the squad leaders of the platoon, saintly Sergeant Elias.

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