Study Guide

Platoon Director

Director

Oliver Stone

Oliver, Oliver, Oliver—what hasn't this guy directed?

While Stone first made his name as a screen writer (he won the 1979 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on Midnight Express), he has become known as one of the premier directors in Hollywood, if sometimes a little out there.

The short list of his films includes the following:

  • Salvador (1986)
  • Platoon (1986)
  • Wall Street (1987)
  • Born on the Fourth of July(1989)
  • JFK (1991)
  • The Doors (1991)
  • Heaven and Earth (1993)
  • Natural Born Killers (1994)
  • World Trade Center (2006)
  • W (2008)
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps(2010)

As you can see, Oliver Stone definitely digs a controversial subject: the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven and Earth), terrorism and the Bush presidency (W, World Trade Center), atrocities in Latin America (Salvador), white collar crime (Wall Street, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps). You could take things a step further and say that Stone loves to gravitate towards the sixties: his three films about Vietnam, his biopic about sixties rock legend Jim Morrison (The Doors), and his fascinating exploration of the Kennedy assassination are all forays into some of the most important events of the decade that has become Stone's muse.

Common Links

While at first Stone's film seem to explore a diverse array of subjects, there are definitely some spottable patterns. Stone's notorious for his male characters, many of whom become "tainted and disillusioned" by their experiences but eventually reach "self-knowledge of right and wrong" (source). This is as true of Chris Taylor in Platoon as it is of Bud Fox in Wall Street, as of characters in Salvador as in Talk Radio (1988).

Put another way, Stone's characters often partake in a "hellish descent," a journey to the "darkest of pits": the corrupt world of American Finance (the Wall Street franchise) and American politics (JFK), the jungles of Vietnam, the horrors of Cold War Latin America (Salvador), drugs and alcohol (The Doors), and professional sports (Any Given Sunday). In Platoon Taylor descends both into Vietnam but also into the literal Underground of the army camp, with its drugs and booze creating a strange, supernatural atmosphere.

Cinematic Habits

If Stone has a distinct, male protagonist, he's also got a few distinct filmmaking techniques up his sleeve. He's known for his voiceovers (as in Platoon), for blending actual historical footage with really sleek looking recreations (especially in JFK), and for using "quick-cut editing" (source).

The latter plays a very important role in Platoon, especially during the action sequences, where the camera keeps shifting in such a way that we really have no idea what is happening, or where anybody is in relation to each other. The technique mimes the chaos of war, and thus mimes reality, which is precisely the point. 

War is chaos, and you've got no firm footing on which to plant your worn out combat boots.

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