44 / CHRONICLESnSCREENnThe Long Warnby Katherine DaltonnPlatoon; directed and written by OlivernStone; Hemdale Film Corporationn& Orion Pictures.nSome opinions are communicated likena virus, and the received wisdom onnPlatoon is a good example of thisncultural dissemination on the scale ofnan epidemic. It’s a movie that moviegoersnhave flocked to, and as for ourncollected punditry, bowing and scrapingnbefore Platoon’s fashionable viewnof Vietnam, they have indulged in ancollective rave.nCombine popular success and politicalncorrectness with this year’s trendynsubject matter, and you have the culturalnicon for the ’86-87 season. Younneed look no further than the Tweedledumnand Tweedledee of weeklynnews journalism to see that this is so.nTime, on the crest of the accolades,nfound in their mid-December reviewnthat “Platoon is different. It matters.”nNewsweek was a little slower on thendraw but managed to arrive at a remarkablynsimilar conclusion threenweeks later. Platoon, it said, was “violent”nbut “deeply moving”—“Afternnine years of waiting. Stone has madenone of the rare Hollywood movies thatnmatter.” Time went on to give thenmovie a cover story in late January:n”Vietnam the Way It Really Was”nwent the headline.nBut just what is it that matters sonabout a cheap (just $6 million) picturenthat nobody in Hollywood wanted tonmake (the financing finally came fromnBritain), with no big stars, and a scriptnthat rolls out every moldy cliche fromnVITAL SIGNSnthe past 40 years worth of war movies?nWhat is it?nVietnam, 1967. That platoon ofnPlatoon is “somewhere near the Cambodiannborder”—cliche number one.nThe new boys arrive, and soon ChrisnTaylor (our hero and Stone’snmouthpiece/alter ego as played bynCharlie Sheen) and his new patrol arenabout to set out on a night march intonthe jungle. “Wanna see a picture ofnmy girl?” asks the lumpy grunt Cardner,npulling out a photo of the plainnbut worthy Lucy Jean. Doomed bynthat hackneyed setup, poor old Gardnerndoesn’t make it through the nextnscene, blown away in the fighting.nAnd so on and so forth with old hatnmasquerading as Nam Like It ReallynWas—every cliche in the book from anman who was actually there, for yes,njust like Chris Taylor, Stone droppednout of college and volunteered. Thenscript, Stone claims, is full of men henknew and revised versions of eventsnthat happened. Like Taylor, he wasn’tnin Vietnam a day before realizing he’dnmade a big mistake. He heard thenboasts of a soldier who claimed to havenbrained an old woman and knew thenoriginals for both his good Sgt. Eliasnand his scarred and merciless Sgt.nBarnes.nBut all that touted real experience,nonce it is run through the mill ofnStone’s mind, still turned into a tiresomelyntypical Vietnam story: a greennkid shipped in from the States findsnhimself in hell, among dopers andnconscienceless good ol’ boys from thenrural South, tries to confront annenemy he never sees (the VC) andnturns instead on that “worse” enemy,nthe enemy within, becoming the killernhe must to survive, taking the law intonhis own hands as he must to wreaknjushce. It’s all pure corn—Elias’ headnlooming in a wide angle shot in thendrug den (in this movie the good guysnsmoke dope), Barnes drinking his inev­nnnitable Jack Daniels, and worst of all,nTaylor’s sermonizing voice-overs.nEven Time faulted Platoon for beingn”overwritten,” the perfect euphemismnfor any work that is both trite andnverbose. I couldn’t scribble fastnenough to get down all the baloney.n”Sometimes I just look at a guy,” saysnBarnes, “and I know this guy is notngonna make it.” Heard that somewhere?nOr how about Bunny settingnfire to a hut with his Bic and thennlighting his cigarette—seen that one?nBut the best sanchmony got saved fornthe end. “We did not fight thenenemy,” says Chris, being flown out ofnVietnam after a hellish last night ofnbattle with the Vietnamese. “Wenfought ourselves, and the enemy isnus.”nHe says that because the main conflictnin Platoon as Stone has written itnis not between the Americans and thenVC but between those two sergeants.nBarnes, shot seven times (mostiy in thenface, it seems) and not dead yet, maniacal,ncruel; and Elias, in for his thirdntour and just as effective as Barnesnagainst the VC, but kind to his men,nmyshcal, and mysterious. Elias is a potnsmoker to Barnes’s J.D.; he is a mannwho has lost faith, rather than, likenBarnes, incapable of it. Barnes is therento kill; Elias is still fighting the goodnfight and no longer sure why.nWhen Barnes gratuitously kills annold woman, Elias presses charges, andnafter they are sent back out together onnan ambush, Barnes shoots Elias andnleaves him for dead. Taylor had idolizednElias and intuits that Barnes murderednhis friend, and after confrontingnBarnes nearly gets killed by him himselfnBut it’s the night of the finalnmelee, and as the American camp isnoverrun by the Vietnamese, the commandingnofficer finally calls in an airnstrike on his own position. That blastnfortuitously knocks Barnes out andnaside just as Taylor is about to get hisn