release year: 1986
genre: war drama
viewing setting: home DVD, 6/24/13 and 4/12/02

synopsis: A young soldier is stationed in Vietnam and learns all the nasty things there are to know about the war, the enemy, and his fellow soldiers.

impressions: Powerful stuff from Oliver Stone, it won the Best Picture Oscar that year. The movie progresses pretty much from the point of view of one young, naive soldier as he learns what he needs to know to survive. It's basically an exposition of the violence of war and the dark, nasty side of man, and it makes you wonder what would happen to you or people you know if you were dumped into this situation. Imagine being sent to a foreign land to fight enemies who can pass themselves off as the local noncombatants. How do you tell who's an innocent villager and who's waiting to kill you when your back is turned? And what do you do when some of your allies in this fight start going a little psycho? At times, this is not an easy movie to watch.

things to watch for: When the one soldier finds and gloats over the ammo box full of important enemy documents.

acting: Charlie Sheen pulls off a serious (and early) role as the inexperienced young kid sent off to war; his innocence and actions are the framework for the movie. Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe are also good as the nasty and benevolent sergeants, respectively. There are at least a dozen others who provide good supporting roles here, though many of their names escape me. All in all, it's quite well-acted, especially since so many of the roles are unpleasant.

final word: Grim war movie, one of the best.

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