Platoon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie sported a good but not great image.
One consistent positive came from the image's sharpness, which seemed fairly solid throughout the movie. Only slight instances of softness occurred, and these remained minor. The majority of the film was reasonably detailed and distinctive. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained absent. Source flaws were a non-factor; I saw a few small specks but nothing more.
Colors tended to be fairly subdued, but they looked natural and well-saturated. This was a heavily green presentation that seemed appropriate for the film. Black levels appeared appropriately dark, but shadow detail was a minor weakness, in large part due to the apparent use of "day for night" photography at times; the low-light shots could be somewhat dense, but I thought this was often intentional. Due to the nature of the photography, this wasn’t a tremendously attractive presentation, but it represented the film well.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 was good but inconsistent. On the positive side was the film's soundfield, which seemed surprisingly active for a movie from 1986. The front speakers were used to good effect, as a lot of action popped up in all three channels. The rears also got a decent workout. Though their general demeanor was to reinforce the front spectrum, the surrounds still added a nicely involving dimension and also provided a fair amount of unique audio; the latter generally regarded some showy helicopter effects but also encompassed other elements. I found the mix to be a little too "speaker specific" at times, and it didn't blend especially well, but for its age, it seemed well above average.
Unfortunately, the quality of the sound caused some concerns. In general, it felt as though the dynamic range was limited, and when the audio wanted to go above or below a certain point, it appeared rough and thick. Dialogue displayed the most problems; although much of the speech was relatively natural, some lines came across as flat and harsh. Intelligibility remained fairly strong, however; the only times I had trouble understanding dialogue related to the cacophony of the situation.
Effects seemed similarly restricted. Due to the many explosions we hear, there's a mild amount of distortion from this track, and the high end never seemed as crisp or clear as it should. Bass also was present but it seemed somewhat insubstantial. Only Georges Delerue's poignant score emerged from the mix unscathed; it appeared pretty clean and smooth and seemed to replicate the music well. Platoon earned its "B" through the quality of the score and the ambition of the mix, but the reproduction of speech and effects sounded slightly disappointing.
How did the audio and picture of this new disc compare with the 2006 20th Anniversary DVD of Platoon? Audio remained a wash, as the new track suffered from the same limitations as the old one. Visuals offered a good upgrade, though, as the Blu-ray was cleaner and more detailed than the DVD.
The Blu-ray includes most of the same extras as the 20th Anniversary DVD plus some new ones. We find two audio commentaries. First up is a running, screen-specific piece from director Oliver Stone. Old Ollie usually provides a compelling experience with these tracks, and the piece for Platoon is no exception.
Although I always knew that Platoon was a personal flick for Stone, I never realized just how personal until I screened this commentary. Throughout the track, Stone often discussed the real-life counterparts for scenes and characters. It was fascinating to hear of his actual experiences and discover just how much of the movie came from Stone’s life. Of course, much of it was fictionalized, but I was surprised to find out how much duplicated Stone’s tour in Vietnam. Stone also provides a lot of interesting information about the day-to-day problems he had while at war as well as some tidbits about the making of the film itself. The latter aspects of the commentary are pretty minor, however, as Stone’s main emphasis sticks with his past. He even occasionally refers to Charlie Sheen’s character as “me”! At times, Stone did little more than simply describe the action on screen, but as a whole, this was a very interesting track.
In addition, we get a second commentary from Captain Dale Dye, the technical advisor for Platoon. I found this piece to also work very well. During much of the track, Dye discusses the training through which he put the cast, and he covered the ways in which he and Stone tried to ensure that the movie would accurately represent the actual war experience. Dye includes a lot of compelling factoids throughout the track, and he also went into his own combat memories, though not to the same degree as did Stone. In any case, the second commentary provided a nice complement to Stone’s and it was an interesting listen.
12 Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of 11 minutes and 31 seconds. “Chris’ First Time” shows his initial attempt to smoke pot, while “Love and Hate” tells us more about Barnes and Elias as well as the grunts’ motivations. “Dream Sequence” depicts a short nightmare of Chris’, and “No Regrets” offers a chat between Chris and Elias about life and death. “When I Get Home” tells us what the soldiers plan to do when they return to the US, and “Look for a Target” is a brief snippet in which Barnes yells at the grunts during combat. “Rescuing Lerner” shows what the title indicates, while “Life of the Party” mostly presents King as he sings “Tracks of My Tears”. “This New Guy” and “Later” connect to King’s departure, though the latter shows a creepy possible reappearance of Elias. “Barnes Lives” provides an alternate sequence in which Chris doesn’t kill the sergeant.
Much of this added material offers additional philosophical comments from the soldiers. These threaten to turn Platoon into The Thin Red Line, so I’m glad they got the boot. The clips also deflect the focus from Chris too much. He’s in them but they broaden the movie’s scope to more heavily involve the other grunts. However, King benefits from this, and the scenes may help us better understand the closeness of his relationship with Chris. The released film doesn't explain that very well, so at least they open up that side of things a little better. I prefer the movie without them, but one could argue for their inclusion.
We can watch these with or without commentary from Stone. He tells us a little about why he cut the scenes and also provides more information about the real-life inspirations for the characters and situations as well as notes about the actors. Stone proves involving and useful in his remarks.
After that we find a collection of documentaries. Under Flashback to Platoon, three pieces appear. Snapshot in Time: 1967-1968 goes for 19 minutes, 15 seconds with movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Stone, Dye, author Philip Caputo, UCLA history professor Mary F. Corey, former senator Max Cleland, and Harvard University senior fellow Marvin Kalb. “Snapshot” examines the world during the period covered in Platoon. We get background about the Cold War and the “Domino Theory”, the war in Vietnam and US involvement there. The show also looks at the contrasting combat styles between the Americans and the Vietnamese along with other problems during the war. We see the development of the conflict across 1967-68 and also watch influences on the home front like media coverage and protests.
Obviously a program that runs less than 20 minutes can’t offer a terribly deep examination of a subject as broad as the Vietnam War, even if it sticks with a two-year span. That said, “Snapshot” does well for what it attempts. It touches on the most important issues and gives us a good feeling for the significant concerns of the period.
Creating the ‘Nam runs 12 minutes, four seconds and features Stone, Dye, producer Arnold Kopelson, editor Claire Simpson, production designer Bruno Rubeo, special effects supervisor Yves De Bono, and actor Charlie Sheen. While “Snapshot” looked at the historical perspective, “Creating” examines movie production issues. It starts with the beginning of the shoot and discusses Stone’s mindset following the failure of Salvador and the strain creating Platoon put on him. From there we hear about what it was like to work with Stone, locations, sets and making the Philippines look like Vietnam, extras, the flick’s visual style, authenticity, and various production complications.
No one will mistake “Creating” for a full “making of” program, but it touches on a variety of useful issues. It gives us frank opinions of areas and moves at a good pace. As expected, there’s some repetition with other elements, but this remains a tight little show.
For the 17-minute and 19-second Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon, we find information from Stone, Sheen, Dye, Simpson, Kopelson, Cleland, Caputo, Corey, film critic Jack Mathews, NYU associate professor Marita Sturken, USC School of Cinema-Television Dr. Todd Boyd, and Vietnam veterans John Greer, Randy Dillenback, Willie Wong, and John Serrano. As implied by the title, this show looks at what Platoon meant to people and the impact it made. We hear a little more about the film’s development and the impressions of those involved as they created it. From there we hear about public reactions to the flick – both pro and con – along with reviews and interpretation of the flick’s themes and its implications for its participants.
“Wounds” seems a bit disjointed as it goes from reactions to the movie to critical notes to the experiences of the vets. It tosses out a mix of interesting insights but suffers from its lack of consistency. It ends up as a decent show but not a particularly insightful one.
The next components show up under Documentaries. During the 25-minute, 32-second One War, Many Stories, we get comments from Stone and veterans Dr. James Lull, Phil Weatherwax, Dennis Barberie, James Rice, Terance Duddy, Paul Gold, Bill Hutton, Odas Flake, Brad Fagerstrom, George Pyfrom, Harold Shrage, and Joey Leikin. The former soldiers chat about their experiences after a screening of Platoon. They relate their thoughts about the film’s depiction of events but mostly concentrate on what the war was like for them. This leads to a frank discussion and an emotional piece.
Preparing for ‘Nam runs six minutes, 36 seconds and includes information from Stone as well as Vietnam veterans Hutton, Gold, and Lull. Stone only appears at the start, as the vets provide the bulk of the information. They discuss how they ended up in the military and relate their impressions of basic training. Despite its brevity, “Preparing” throws out some interesting notes and merits a look.
Three elements crop up within Vignettes. We find “Caputo and the 7th Fleet” (1:38), “Dye Training Method” (3:23) and “Gordon Gekko” (1:06). In these, we hear from Caputo and Dye. Caputo discusses the evacuation of Saigon in 1975, while Dye chats about how he turns actors into soldiers. Finally, “Gekko” lets us know the origins of the Wall Street character’s name. These are fun little additions.
What does the Blu-ray lose from the 2006 DVD? It drops a photo gallery and a good documentary called “Tour of the Inferno”. It’s unclear why the latter gets the boot; perhaps rights issues prevented its appearance here. Whatever the case, it absence disappoints.
This package also tosses in a DVD edition of Platoon. The film saw three earlier DVD releases: a barebones one in 2000, an SE in 2001, and the aforementioned 2006 20th Anniversary set. The “bonus DVD” comes from the 2000 release. Since that’s the weakest of the bunch, it’s a disappointment it’s the one that shows up here.
I continue to think Platoon is a good and often effective flick, but I don’t feel it’s a masterpiece or the best of its genre. The Blu-ray provides generally solid picture and audio as well as a strong collection of supplements, though it loses some useful components from earlier DVDs. The absence of those extras means fans will need to hold onto their old DVDs, but the Blu-ray does offer the best reproduction of the movie itself.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of PLATOON