“A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.”
I had never watched this film before and I was, in no way, prepared for what I was about to watch. This was one of those movies that I became more interested in the longer that I watched it.
Right from the very beginning, there is an emphasis placed on youth. Oliver Stone, the writer/director, seemed to really want it to get through; these were all just kids. Kids were fighting this war. New kids were coming in as corpses were being flown out. And that is just horrifying. I made the comment in my notes that all of the actors looked so young in this film. That emphasizes the youth of these characters even more so now, I think.
The heat and feel of the jungle was portrayed amazingly well. It was all done through the use of mist, sweat, and noise. The noise of the jungle, the sound mixing in general in this film, is an achievement all on its own. It’s astounding.
The duality of man, that’s what the plot of this movie can really be boiled down to. I mean, it’s said right at the end of the film: “I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. And the enemy was in us.” We, as humans, have the ability to be good and bad, and this film really showed that with characters such as Sgt. Barnes and Lt. Elias. Even our main character shows the duality of man. He saves Vietnamese women from being raped by men in his platoon, but also shoots a man that was on his side (given, in our eyes, that man is not a good man in this story, but murder is still bad and that was cold blooded murder).
There were two scenes in this film that hit me the hardest. The first was the scene in the village, when the Americans are questioning the villagers to find out if they are hiding anything. This scene was particularly hard to watch because of how cruel the men in the platoon were being. There were times that I couldn’t even stand it, like, for example, when an innocent woman was shot to death because a Sgt. Barnes felt that the woman’s husband was lying to them. And then he threatened to kill the daughter. I feel like I also want to say something about the rape scene and the line “She’s a fucking human being, man!” but the only thing I can think of to say is how happy I was that somebody finally said it.
The second scene that was hard to watch was Lt. Elias’s death scene. Although, I do have to say that it was beautifully shot and paired with some of the prettiest music I have ever heard.
Movies about the Vietnam War tend to be really violent, and this one was no different. I think that the fact that Oliver Stone is a Vietnam War vet gave a lot more truth to what I was watching. Would I watch this movie again? Probably, but I think that I’d have to be in the right mind set to do so.