Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The One Where AT Remembers Vietnam

War... What Is It Good For?


So Gray lets me write here on a Tues. I write about the films that provided the soundtrack to my life. (Never did get a less wordy title...)

On my site, he writes about music that provided the soundtrack to his life. Simples. Check that out when you're done, here.



I remember the first time I saw Platoon. I was obsessed with three things.

One. Trying to see Johnny Depp. It was weird to me that he was in it.
Two. Seeing how that iconic poster fitted into the film.
Three. What the word meant.

The thing is, Platoon used to be my favourite war movie. For a long time, actually. Charlie Sheen was immense in it. The helicopter taking off at the end, with everything around it white.

Out of all of the Vietnam movies, I related to Sheens character the most. He didn't want to be there. The voice over let us get in side his head.

I wasn't aware at the time either of how much I loved Oliver Stone films, whilst disliking him as a person. I still can't put my finger on it. It's what stops me watching Born On The Forth Of July more though. It's a bit odd actually. It's only writing it that I realise I think I hate Oliver Stone.

I'll think about that some more.

So anyway, Platoon did something. It really got me into the idea of War movies. It opened the door. One film I watched over and over as a kid, was Aliens. Now, that will get it's own post, but the similarities between that and Vietnam movies is undeniable.

And so I sought more out. And over time, I started to distance myself from Platoon.


Dad bought the VHS (FTW!) of Full Metal Jacket. Morbidly the bit that made me really want to see that was the cover as well. Or the back of it. Three or four soldiers carrying a comrade, who was screaming. It looked like he had been blown in half. And the idea of that compelled me to watch it. Now, at the time the fact that that film totally deviated from my expectations made me see the flaws in Platoon.

Here was Kubrick, (before I knew who Kubrick was), showing us Boot Camp, then war. It was just so much bigger in scope than Platoon, which never left the jungle. And more than that, it managed to be more intimate too. So I started to relate to Pvt. Joker more. Or worse, to Pvt. Pyle - who never even makes it out of Boot Camp.

Full Metal Jacket is a stunning film. Getting right under your skin. The uncomfortable black humour really made me question what I would do in that situation. And do you know what, I'd probably turn and run. I reviewed Saving Private Ryan, here, and was honest enough to say I'd be the soldier on the stairs who gets stage fright. Can't actually do it. Can't kill someone. That's what Halo is for, right?


I can't not mention Hamburger Hill. Another VHS, I had a cheeky watch when Dad was out. Guess what drew me to it? The cover. Far more low key, but equally striking.

That one got lost in amongst the others unfortunately. Maybe too samey, or seen as less worthy. It's a great film, though. The opening napalm attack is stunningly realised. Plus it has Don Cheadle in it.

I have to mention Deer Hunter too. None more iconic than that cover. And that scene. I remember watching it, and thinking... Jesus... this is long. And they've not even shown any war scenes yet. I think that's part of the genius, though. That's a character piece. Showing you what it's like to come back home. How you would struggle to acclimatise. Of course, First Blood did that pretty well, too.

So what did I learn from Vietnam movies?

Well I learnt I'd watch a Vietnam movie ahead of a WW1 or WW2 movie any day of the week. A Bridge Too Far? Na. My Bridge is We Were Soldiers, or Casualties Of War. (MJF best performance. Fact).

Part of that is the soundtrack. Part of it that the actors have more resonance for me. Although I never forgave Tom Berenger, and never really trusted Willem Dafoe either.

Maybe a little bit is the Politics. The history lesson of a different world. Well, maybe not so different.

Same situations. Men up against other men. trying to understand it. Why they are there. What they are being made to do. It's all a bit sad, really. I picture The Ledgers© together, in a Platoon. It scares me. Which reminds me... What the world needs now, is a Vietnam comedy. It would be good for morale.


Now... let's be honest. There is another. But that's for another time. Maybe in time for the Blu...

Fancy watching a Vietnam movie? Here's a list.

Thanks for the suggestion, Miss Kyle.