Study Guide

Platoon Point of View

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Point of View

Linear with Narrator Voice Overs

When you've got a story as morally complex and tricky to navigate as Platoon, you want to get back to the basics.

Which is just what this movie does. Platoon is a pretty straightforward, linear narrative. It begins with Chris Taylor's arrival in Vietnam, his early growing pains (during his first mission he forgets to turn off the safety on his Claymore Mine), his acclimation to the rigors of the jungle, and the final destruction of his innocence. He's in most of the scenes of the film, although occasionally we see what the other guys are up to during some of the chaotic action sequences.

Tell Us What You Really Think, Chris

The one little narrative device that deserves some comment is the voice-over technique. These voice overs are technically snippets from letters Taylor is sending home to his grandma that tell her (and us) what is going on. While the film usually reinforces these updates with written explanations that tell us things like the platoon's location, the time of year, etc., Taylor's voice personalizes what are otherwise lifeless words.

Taylor's narrations also spell out the film's themes quite clearly so we don't miss them: war, death, loss of innocence. As the film progresses, Taylor transforms from a naïve college kid into a battle-hardened, disillusioned veteran, and it is largely through what he tells us that we learn about the transformation (although his killing of Barnes makes it clear that his soul, too, has been taken by the Nam).

It is also through his narrations that his character is given an interiority and depth it might not have had. We learn that his relationship with his parents is either severely strained, or non-existent, for example, hence the fact that he's writing to his grandmother. In one memorable moment he finishes his letter by saying "Tell mom and dad I… well, just tell them." He doesn't even know what to say to them. We also learn that he's gradually losing his sanity, something we might not necessarily pick up on given how focused he seems in some of the battle scenes.

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