Platoon: Special Edition/Gold Edition (1986)

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Released 12-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Tour Of The Inferno
Audio Commentary-Oliver Stone (Director)
Audio Commentary-Captain Dale Dye (Technical Advisor/Actor)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Salvador
TV Spots-3
Gallery-Photo
Gallery-Poster
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 114:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (73:29) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Oliver Stone
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Charlie Sheen
Tom Berenger
Willem Dafoe
Forest Whitaker
Johnny Depp
John C. McGinley
Reggie Johnson
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Georges Delerue


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Greek
Hungarian
Hebrew
Turkish
Czech
Smoking Yes, plenty and often
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Platoon is possibly one of the finest war movies ever made and for me is the defining movie about Vietnam (although I hold a special place for Apocalypse Now). This is a movie that today would require a huge sum of money to make but when it was made, back in 1986, it was done for a pittance (six million dollars I believe). In addition, many of the cast were relative unknowns at the time of the making of this movie. Today those self-same actors can command millions.

    Therein lies both the greatness and the longevity of a movie like Platoon, plus the reason it garnered several Academy Award nominations for both actors, director and screenplay - and won Best Director and Best Film, amongst others. It is no co-incidence that this also happens to be a labour of love for its director, Oliver Stone, being a composite of characters and circumstances, of people and places he encountered while doing his tour of Vietnam. Stone, who has become something of an icon in the movie making business as a bit of a maverick, is also possibly one of the finest directors on the planet.

    As I said previously, the strength of this movie comes from a two-fold source - the screenplay, also written by Stone, and the actors. Most movie goers would be hard pressed not to recognise Charlie Sheen, Willem DaFoe, Tom Berenger, Kevin Dillon and Johnny Depp, amongst a stellar cast that would be hard to match. From each one Stone gets a performance that matches the script and creates a movie of lasting quality. The subject matter itself is not that easy to digest: the loss of innocence, the brutality of war or the simple waste of human life.

    Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is newly arrived in Vietnam and assigned to a platoon located on the border of Cambodia. His patriotic zeal is soon tested by arduous marches, ants, cuts and bruises, a lack of sleep and a sense of antipathy from those around him. As his journey into the nightmare continues, he begins to know fear and understand that the new guys are always treated this way. As time passes he begins to identify with some of the others in his platoon. First there is Sgt Barnes (Tom Berenger), the actual leader of the platoon. Next there is Sgt Elias (Willem DaFoe), who appears to be the antithesis of Barnes but is also as wily as a fox. Others that come into focus are Bunny (Kevin Dillon), a born killer, Sgt O'Neill (John C. McGinley), a conniving schemer with a yellow streak, Lerner (Johnny Depp), Big Harold (Forest Whitaker) and Junior (Reggie Johnson).

    Most of the men are conscripts, except the 'lifers' like Barnes and Elias, and they spend their time getting drunk or stoned in between missions. Those missions are night-ops on ambush patrol, or seek-and-destroy patrols into the dense jungle where terror takes priority over reason. For most, they count the days until their discharge and do whatever it takes not to get killed. Stone cleverly constructs an effective anti-war movie where the soldiers themselves have no sense of purpose, except to make it out alive, where the enemy is not only unseen and invisible for the most part, but also amongst themselves and in themselves. While this movie has all the earmarks of movies such as All Quiet on the Western Front, it also appears to be a typical war movie, which underscores its brilliance since it is a bit of both and also none of the above.

    This is a powerful and exceptionally well directed and acted movie in every respect. Its running time of a little under two hours felt more like an hour and for me proves once again that quality doesn't rely on big special effects or massive budgets. Platoon stands alongside many other great movies, a testament to the futility of war and the inherent bravery of those that fight it, even if they don't understand what the hell it is they are fighting for.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Made on a shoestring budget back in 1986, I doubt anyone would have envisaged back then the advent of DVD. It is therefore somewhat surprising that this movie has been nicely restored and some effort has been made to present us with the best quality print available. Although at times DVD shows up many of the flaws inherent in older movies, at least with Platoon some effort has been made to show it off in its best light. In all fairness, this is as good as I have seen it look in many a long day with few, if any, really obvious flaws in the transfer.

    This disc is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    There is some softness in this transfer, but the lack of edge enhancement was a definite bonus. Grain is fairly consistent and reasonably solid throughout, especially in stock shots or when blue sky abounded. There is a decent amount of background and shadow detail on offer, but depth of detail does suffer on occasion. There was some minor blooming in the blacks, but for the most part the blacks stayed fairly solid with some delineation visible.

    The colours were across a fairly diverse spectrum. In typical fashion, lots of blue hues were used to enhance night sequences. In camp you had a preponderance of reds or more natural earthy colours on display. The palette used was fairly vast but there was a tendency to over-saturate browns and reds at times. Skin tones for the most part were very natural, although some scenes enhanced the red elements unnaturally.

    There are plenty of the usual film artefacts on offer with this transfer. Most of them take the form of little white spots, mostly only visible for a frame or two and then are gone. There are really only two highly noticeable ones, at 13:58 just next to Barnes' head (a nice big black mark) and at 73:47 there appears to be a slight tear in the print. There didn't appear to be any aliasing or MPEG artefacts during the movie, which was quite pleasing. There was a very noticeable jump at 36:13, which I originally took for the layer change but it was far too early. It occurs mid-scene and I thought it was due to missing frames until I was listening to the audio commentaries. During both, the jump results in some missing dialogue, indicating a possible transfer glitch.

    The subtitles are located on the bottom of the screen in white and are very easy to see and reasonably accurate to the spoken word onscreen.

    The layer change occurs during Chapter 20 at 73:29 and is poorly placed mid-scene, creating an obvious pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are four soundtracks available on this disc. The default, and the one I listened to exclusively, was in English Dolby Digital at the bitrate of 448 kilobits per second. The second, optional soundtrack is in Spanish at the same bitrate. There are also two Audio Commentary tracks on this disc, one by Oliver Stone and one by Dale Dye, in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 kilobits per second.

    To be honest this isn't the best soundtrack I have heard and sounds definitely like a stereo mix redone into 5.1. For the most part the sound is centred squarely in the fronts with some minor surround work on offer. The overall effect isn't much better than stereo with little enveloping offered by the surround channels except at specific times.

    Apart from my inability to understand 'jive' (subtitles are a real blessing), the dialogue on this disc was clear and articulate with no obvious syncing problems. There was some ADR work noticed but nothing exceptional or detrimental as a whole.

    The music for Platoon was created by Georges Delerue, who had also done the soundtrack for Stone's movie made earlier that year, Salvador. This is quite a stirring piece of music that melds itself beautifully to the movie. Soulful and almost pained, it adds a real element of sadness to so many scenes. A striking piece that suits the movement and meaning of the movie. Cut into the mix is some incidental music from the period, which is deftly handled and nicely located to add variety.

    The surrounds on this disc come in for some decent usage only occasionally. They support the music where its appropriate, but you won't be able to tell for the most part without putting your ear to the speaker which is a bit sad. In the special effects department they do a little better. They kick in nicely during many of the battle scenes. Some of the better examples were a helicopter flying past at 8:45, a rainstorm at 14:47 and from about 65 minutes in - this is when they do their best work. Unfortunately, even though there is noted activity from the surrounds, it isn't the most polished of sound.

    To be honest, if there was much coming from the subwoofer I couldn't hear or feel it. Very, very occasionally there was the odd muffled thud in sympathy with an explosion, but for the most part it was fairly underutilised.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    This is similar in part to Gladiator in the menu presentation. I don't mean that it's the same, just similar in style. It is animated with scenes from the movie and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it 16x9 enhanced. The music from the movie is overlaid.

Scene Selection Animation & Audio

    Another example of the beauty of DVD. Each scene selection offers a short excerpt from the movie. The music is the same as the main menu overlay, taken from the soundtrack.

Featurette - Tour of the Inferno (50:56)

    With a running time of 50:56, this is what a documentary should be! It is presented in a Full Frame format, with clips from the movie in 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced format. There is much use of original documentary footage from the Vietnam War, plus what looks like home movie/super 8mm stock, TV and MovieTone type footage and black and white and colour stills, many of them from ex-vets and of Oliver Stone himself in Vietnam. The entire documentary covers events from the original screenplay being offered to the studios right through to the previewing of the movie at a Vet's meeting. Actors Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem DaFoe, Johnny Depp and others along with Dale Dye, who worked as technical advisor and had a part in the movie, and director Oliver Stone, detail their characters, how the movie was made, the problems involved, the 'boot camp' they undertook and other trials and tribulations. It is a superb addition to a quality disc.

Audio Commentary - Oliver Stone (Director)

    Oliver Stone takes you on a tour of his innermost thoughts in regards to the making of the movie and where many of the characters come from. Mostly composites, except for the character of Chris Taylor who he based almost entirely on himself, Stone embellishes his commentary with some technical information and a lot of anecdotes about his own time in 'Nam. Although he isn't the most eloquent of speakers, he is interesting enough to hold your attention throughout the movie.

Audio Commentary - Dale Dye (Technical Advisor/Actor)

    Formerly a captain in the US Army, Dale Dye takes you through a fascinating look at the movie from the standpoint of someone who spent 30 months in Vietnam and passes on that experience to the cast by taking them through a 14 day boot camp and then instilling the movie with a real sense of authenticity. Possibly one of the more interesting commentators, with a flowing verbal style, he embellishes tales of the real Vietnam with the methods used to simulate it and how he tried to maintain authenticity even when impeded by lack of funds. This could almost be considered a retrospective. He includes so many technical details that this is a terrific addition.

Theatrical Trailer (1:50)

    1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. Good colour, some grain, low artefacts, decently presented.

Trailer

    Salvador: Special Edition DVD trailer: 1:15, Full Frame, 1.33:1 with letterboxed 1.85:1 inserts from the movie.

TV Spots

Gallery-Photo

    27 photos from the making of the movie (including one duplicate) in a slow moving montage.

Gallery-Poster

    4 different movie posters

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From the looks of it, both the Region 1 and Region 4 Special Editions are almost identical with the following exceptions:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    Unless a flimsy insert is a must, I would stick with the Region 4 version with the superior PAL format.

Summary

    Platoon is possibly the finest war movie of all time, and definately the finest of its type about the Vietnam War. Platoon deserves every accolade laid at its door. As well as being a darned good movie, this offers up some of the best acting of its day. It is just a pity that the transfer quality isn't the greatest.

    The video is average at best, with too many artefacts for my taste.

    The audio sounded more like stereo remixed into 5.1, badly. The front soundstage is fine, but the surrounds and subwoofer are disappointing.

    The extras on this disc are outstanding. The 50 minute plus featurette and the dual commentaries make this a 5 star effort.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Tuesday, November 20, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Gavin T
The DVD Bits - John Z

Comments (Add)
Consumer Alert: re-releases of Platoon, Salvador and others - capone (they're some fine antibiotics you got there..)
Special Edition -
R2 Special Edition -