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Roger Davidson

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This is Oliver Stone's stunning semi-autobiographical Vietnam war story, which follows one group of soldiers through a year in the jungle. Seen from the viewpoint of young soldier Chris (Charlie Sheen, using remarkable parallels to his father Martin Sheen's performance in Apocalypse Now), the soldiers spend most of their time trying not to die in the savage firefights that pop up every so often. When they aren't fighting, they talk about life back home, drink, listen to rock and roll, smoke grass and discuss what their real purpose is for being in Vietnam.

Full of strong performances by Sheen, Tom Berenger as the destructive Sgt. Barnes and Willem Dafoe as the more humane Sgt. Elias, Stone paints a horrifying picture about what living, dying and fighting in Vietnam was like for him and his friends. Unlike a lot of war pictures, the battle scenes don't seem choreographed and are relentlessly realistic. You get the feeling that Stone himself wasn't in control of the proceedings, during the filming of the scenes. Also, thanks to the perfectly developed characterizations by the actors, it's hard to tell during the fight scenes who's on one side and who's on the other side. Stone has been known to overdo it on his productions, making it seem like he is never really in control of his own films. That doesn't always work for him and sometimes works against him. But here it works for him quite well, and you can see how it helped with his extremely bloody war scenes.

My Rating = Four Stars

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