Filmsite Movie Review
Platoon (1986)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)

Plot Synopsis (continued)

At Base Camp

Back in the base camp, in the underground bunker as they smoked pot, Chris passionately spoke to other 'doper' survivors, including Rhah, King, Francis, Doc, and Adam. He vowed that Sgt. Barnes had mortally-wounded Elias, not the "dinks," and he was ready to 'frag' Barnes. But the others weren't so certain:

Chris: He killed him. I know that he killed him. I saw his eyes when he came back in.
Rhah: How do you know the dinks didn't get him? You got no proof, man.
Chris: The proof's in the eyes, man. When you know, you know. You were there, Rhah. I know what you were thinking. I say we frag that f--ker tonight!
King: I go with that. An eye for an eye.
---: I say let military justice do the job on him.
Chris: Come on, f--k the military justice! Are you jokin' me? Whose story do you think they're gonna believe? O'Neill's? Bunny's? Wolfe's? Bulls--t!
Rhah: S--t, man, you try that, and Barnes'll shove it right back up your ass with a candle on it!
Chris: Then, whaddya suggest we do, huh?
Rhah: I suggest - you all watch your own asses, 'cause Barnes' gonna be comin' down on all of 'em!
King: You's gonna forget about Elias and all the good times we done had right in here?
Rhah: S--t! You're tryin' to cure the headache by cuttin' off the head. Elias didn't ask ya to fight his battles for him. And if there's a heaven - and God, I hope there is - I know he's sittin' up there drunk as a f--kin' monkey, and smokin' s--t, 'cos he done left his pains down here.
Chris: You're wrong, man! Any way you cut it, Barnes is a f--king murderer!
King: Right on!
Rhah: Taylor, I remember when you first came in here, tellin' me how you admired the bastard!
Chris: I was wrong.
Rhah: Wrong? You ain't never been right about nothin'! And dig this, ya assholes, and dig it good! Barnes has been shot seven times, and he ain't dead! Does that mean anything to you, huh? Barnes ain't meant to die! The only thing that could kill Barnes - is Barnes.

Barnes stepped into the bunker upon the mention of his name and circled around the bunker as he taunted everyone and delivered a stern monologue. He criticized Elias as a trouble-making "crusader" who weakened the military machine war-effort, and warned them about attempting to seek personal revenge for eliminating a disruptive cog. He even appealed, mocked and challenged them to kill him:

You talkin' about killin'? Y'all experts? Y'all know about killin'? I'd like to hear about it, potheads. (He took a drag of pot) Are you smokin' this s--t so's to escape from reality? Me, I don't need this s--t. I am reality. (He took a swig of whiskey from his own bottle) There's the way it oughta be, and there's the way it is. Elias was full of s--t. Elias was a crusader. Now, I got no fight with any man who does what he's told. But when he don't, the machine breaks down. And when the machine breaks down, we break down. And I ain't gonna allow that in any of ya. Not one. (He spit) Y'all love Elias. Oh, you wanna kick ass. Yeah. Well, here I am, all by my lonesome. And there ain't nobody gonna know. Six of you boys against me. Kill me. Huh. I s--t on all of you.

Chris lunged at him, screaming: "You motherf--ker!", grabbed the intoxicated Barnes and pummeled his head against a post. Barnes rapidly spun around, threw Chris down, overpowered him, revealed a push-dagger between his knuckles, and pressed it against Chris' throat. Rhah cautioned Barnes about murdering an enlisted man - it would result in a ten year prison sentence:

Easy, Barnes! Don't do it, man. You'll go dinky dau in LBJ, man. Ten years for killin' an enlisted man. Ten years. You'll climb the f--kin' walls, man! Don't do it!

Barnes pulled back, but not before flicking Chris with the knife on his cheek under his left eye. He then turned and contemptuously spoke again:

Death? What do you all know about death?

A Final Apocalyptic Battle Against the NVA

The platoon was again ordered to be part of a multi-pronged defensive operation, described by Chris' narration as a way to provide "bait" for the enemy to lure them out into the open:

(voice-over) They sent us back into the valley the next day, about 2,000 meters from Cambodia, into a battalion perimeter. It felt like we were returning to the scene of a crime. (They flew over the ruins of the church where Elias had been killed) Alpha Company had been hit hard the day before by a sizeable force, and Charlie Company had been probed that night. There were other battalions in the valley, we weren't the only ones, but we knew we were gonna be the bait to lure them out. Somewhere out there was the entire 141st NVA Regiment.

Chris Taylor and others were delivered by Huey helicopters to the battalion perimeter, where a command center had been fortified and established in the field. A Major officer, Captain Harris and other ranking officers conferred, as next to them on the ground sat two young NVA prisoners. While digging a foxhole with other recruits, Ace watched as one of the prisoners was slapped, and he told the others:

Ace: Caught those motherf--kers tryin' to pull some s--t on Charlie Company last night. They found maps on 'em, man. Got a friend at Battalion. Says they had every f--kin' foxhole here fixed on it: distances, tree lines, our claymores - everything.
Doc: This is bad, man. I got bad vibes here.
Tony: I also heard we're in f--kin' Cambodia right now.

Rhah was summoned by Lt. Wolfe to take over the squad of deceased Sgt. Elias. Two foxholes were pointed out on the perimeter, to be held by two pairs of squad members: "You're tyin' it off with Barnes up here, King down there." With only five members left, Rhah asked why the two foxholes were so far apart, potentially allowing a regiment of Vietnamese to pour through, but Lieutenant Wolfe didn't want to hear it:

I don't wanna hear your problems, Ramucci. You'll get new men any day. Meantime, you make do like everybody else... I don't wanna hear it 'cause, to tell you the truth, I don't give a s--t, OK? I just don't give a flyin' f--k any more.

Squad members feared that a losing battle with the NVA was on the horizon. While deploying claymore detonation wires, King expressed his fears to a very silent Chris, who was smoking a joint by himself and had lost much of his motivation to live after the unfair demise of Elias:

King: I'm glad I ain't goin' with 'em. Somewhere out there is the beast, and he hungry tonight. Motherf--kin' bummer! Ten days and a wake-up and I'm still dealin' with this s--t. (Noticing Chris' depressed silence) What's the matter with you, man? How come you ain't writin' nobody? What about your folks? That grandma you was tellin' me about? Girl? You got a mother and father, don't you? There must be somebody.
Chris: Nah, there's nobody.
King: You've been smokin' too much of this s--t, troop. Gotta control that. Bring a man down. I remember when you first come out here to the bush. You was green as a... (laughing)
Chris: Did you ever get caught in a mistake that you just can't get out of, King?
King: There's a way out of anything, man. Just keep your pecker hard and your powder dry and the worm will turn. How many days you short?
Chris: Nah, it's not just me. It's the way the whole thing works. People like Elias get wasted. People like Barnes just go on makin' up the rules any way they want. So what do we do? Sit in the middle and suck on it. We just don't add up to dry s--t, King.
King: Whoever said we did, man? All you got to do is make it outta here and it's all gravy. Every day, the rest of your life - gravy! Oh, s--t, Super-Lifer.

Sgt. O'Neill appeared and ordered King to pack up his gear to take his leave - he couldn't believe his timely luck: "The Lifers done made a mistake. They cut me some slack, Taylor." King had only ten minutes to pack and get to the last chopper out. His last words to Chris, whom he might never see again, were: "Remember now, take it easy. Don't think too much, and don't you be no fool. Remember, ain't no such thing as a coward out here. Don't mean nothin'. My man!"

In another recruit foxhole at the perimeter with Bunny and Sgt. O'Neill looking on, Sgt. Barnes inspected the swollen soles of Junior's bare feet. Junior complained that he couldn't walk and needed to be evacuated. Barnes accused him of faking the disability:

Barnes: Martin, get your boots on. And the next time I catch you sprayin' 'skeeter repellent on your f--kin' feet, I'm gonna court-martial your n----r ass.
Junior: Well, then court-martial me, motherf--ker! Bust my ass! Send me to f--kin' Long Binh! You can do your f--kin' worst! You white folks have got your last click outta Junior!

When Barnes threatened to put a centipede ("that long, hairy, red and black bastard I found in the ammo crate") onto Junior's crotch to see him move, Junior changed his mind: "I'll f--kin' walk, man!" Then, Bunny complained about being assigned a foxhole with Junior: "F--kin' pussy, man. Sarge, I gotta have him in my hole?" Junior collapsed: "I can't take it no more!" To the side, the weasely Sgt. O'Neill made a special and desperate request of Barnes - to take Elias' R & R in three days and go to Hawaii: "Well, to be honest with ya, I hoped you'd put me on that chopper with King outta here." When Barnes argued: "We need every swingin' dick in the field and you know that," O'Neill begged further and claimed he felt his time was up: "I got a bad feeling. I don't think I'm gonna make it outta here. Do you understand what I'm sayin' to you?" Barnes was resigned: "Everybody gotta die sometime, Red." A cold stare from Barnes silenced O'Neill.

As he departed in a helicopter and Chris waved farewell, King shouted out: "Good-bye, motherf--kers." Explosions, small arms fire, and gunshots were already heard even before dark. In their foxhole, Bunny turned introspective and told Junior about his carefree attitude toward life:

Bunny: Some of the things we done, man, I don't feel like we done somethin' wrong. Sometimes, man, I get this bad feelin'. I told the Padre the truth, man. I like it here. You get to do what you want. Nobody f--ks with you. The only worry you got is dyin'. And if that happens, you won't know about it anyway. So what the f--k, man?
Junior: S--t! I gotta be in this hole with you, man? I just know I shouldn't have come.
Bunny: Don't you worry, Junior. You're hangin' with Audie Murphy here, my man!

The major NVA attack had already started, described in a message relayed by radio to Captain Harris from a scared and inexperienced soldier out beyond the perimeter, who feared that death was imminent with the defensive lines broken:

We're pinned down! They're in the f--kin' trees!...Lieutenant's dead, radio man's looks dead, sir. I don't know where the map is, Captain. They're all around us, sir, movin' in, hundreds of 'em! I can hear 'em talkin' gook.

Harris promised to dispatch a "fire mission" and would get them out, if the soldier could report where the shells were striking to help direct the airpower. Shells were heard whistling overhead before they struck miles away. When Captain Harris called again for a report on the shells' location, there was only deadly silence on the other end. Gunfire was heard with a man speaking Vietnamese, and then the radio went dead.

Chris and Francis shared a foxhole together in the jungle, where nearby, the Viet Cong (who had maps of foxhole locations) were setting up trip flares to light up the foxholes - first targeting Rodriguez' hole (Chris: "Rodriguez's hole just got nailed, man!"). Rhah jumped into Chris and Francis' hole to tell them that gooks had breached their perimeter ("We got gooks in the f--kin' perimeter!"), and were firing off RPG rounds. He warned about how dire the situation was, with airstrikes ("snake and nape" - short for 250 lb. snakeeye bombs and 500 lb. napalm canisters) about to arrive, and the relentless NVA trying to swarm and break through to destroy the battalion headquarters:

They got through Alpha Company. Anything behind you don't identify itself, f--kin' blow it away, OK? F--k! Two! Air strikes coming in - they'll be layin' snake and nape. Don't get outta your f--kin' holes. Stay right here, man. F--k! (A flare lit up the night sky above them) They're probin' us. They'll be goin' up and down this line all night tryin' to get through. All right, stay here, stay cool. I'll be right back.

And then in the light of an explosion, a Terrified Soldier (Mathew Westfall) rushed toward their foxhole ("Don't shoot, don't shoot!") and jumped in, screaming about how the NVA ambush was right behind him:

They're all over the place! Hundreds of 'em - movin' this way! They wiped us out, man! We didn't have a chance! Where's the CP?...You guys get outta here! They're right on my ass! They ain't stoppin' for s--t!

The soldier rushed away in a panic, as Chris set off claymores at approaching VC he saw in the trees, and he and Francis raked the area with machine-gun fire. One grenade knocked off Chris' helmet and he was momentarily dazed and slightly concussed. When he heard a whistle blowing, Chris yelled: "Hold it!" and they listened to the voice of a man speaking Vietnamese over a scratchy amplified loudspeaker. Chris ordered Francis, who paused briefly, to evacuate from their foxhole ("Get out of the f--kin' hole! They're gonna blow it!"), and they barely escaped in time before an RPG rocket made a direct hit on their hole. Like an angry lunatic or madman during the intense battle, Chris charged and counter-attacked the NVA soldiers surrounding their demolished foxhole and gunned them down at close-range, as he yelled out: "You motherf--kers!" He smashed in the head of one wounded VC soldier with the butt of his gun, then jumped back into the foxhole and reclaimed it, as Francis ran back and joined him. In a frenzy, the two continued firing while shouting hysterically: "It's f--kin' beautiful!", before Chris charged forward into the jungle to engage in hand-to-hand combat, without the security of his foxhole.

At Bunny's foxhole, he was experiencing the same euphoria, urging the enemy on: "Come on, motherf--kers! Come on, you can do better than that!" Fearful of dying after a grenade exploded nearby, Junior freaked out ("F--k this s--t!") and fled into the darkness, and Bunny yelled after him: "Get back here, you gutless s--t!" In the dark, Junior accidentally ran directly into a tree and knocked himself out. A Vietnamese trooper appeared out of nowhere toward the foxhole and shot point-blank into Bunny's chest, then jumped in and finished him off. Another soldier repeatedly bayoneted Junior to death. Sgt. Barnes valiantly fought off the ambush attack with a rocket launcher, and then jumped into Bunny's foxhole, as the radio blared:

They're using RPGs in our sector. Zips inside the wire. I repeat. Zips inside the wire.

Sgt. O'Neill cowardly pulled the corpse of Bunny over him to hide, and evaded detection.

In the command center, the Alpha Company Major (cameo by director Oliver Stone) in a fortified battalion headquarters bunker was barking orders:

Major: All right, get me Bravo right away!
RTO (Radio Telephone Operator): Charlie Company reports hand-to-hand on the perimeter, sir. Three holes are down. They need help.
Major: OK, get two squads from Alpha down there right away! Go! Go! Where is that goddamn airstrike?

Just outside the bunker, a Master Sergeant was mowed down by swarms of helmeted VC figures running through the compound. A suicide bomber (known as a "sapper") raced into the defended battalion bunker where he detonated his bulky backpack of explosives, killing the Major and his staff. At the platoon command post, Lt. Wolfe called out that he had lost radio contact with everyone: "I can't raise Barnes, Two Bravo, Two Charlie, Nothing! Get me Six, Bravo Six." Doc and Parker were hit and much of the platoon was threatened, as Doc described the chaos and assumed that Barnes was dead:

They're comin' through all over. I can't do anything...S--t! I think he's dead. I think they're all dead.

Lt. Wolfe radioed to Captain Harris that they were retreating, but was ordered to hold his ground:

Wolfe: Captain, we've been overrun! We're pulling back! Over!
Harris: (furious) Goddamn it! Where are you gonna pull back to, Lieutenant? They're all over the perimeter! Now, you be advised, you will hold in place and you will fight! That means you, Lieutenant!

The remaining few were overrun, and with no other choice, Captain Harris ordered his air support to use all their artillery ("snake and nape") inside of the perimeter:

Harris: Be advised, we got zips in the wire down here...For the record, it's my call. Dump everything you've got left on my pos! I say again, expend all remaining in my perimeter! It's a lovely f--king war. Bravo Six out.
Airman: Roger your last, Bravo Six. We copy. It's your call. Get 'em in their holes down there. Hang tough, Bravo Six. We are coming cocked for treetops.

Many in the platoon were massacred including Doc and Lt. Wolfe, with jet engines roaring above. During the chaos of hand-to-hand combat, Chris located Barnes who had just been wounded and had gone insane in a last stand effort. Barnes - with a maniacal look on his face - crouched above Chris and raised his rifle butt to kill him, as Chris yelled out: "Nooooo!" Both were knocked unconscious by the pummeling of artillery from the roaring jet fighter above them that incinerated the area inside the perimeter.

As dawn came, there was an eerie stillness. Chris fluttered his eyes and awoke in the jungle where he had been thrown - wounded, bloodied and in pain, but alive. He looked to his left and thought he saw a deer within the foliage. He struggled to rise up and walk, and came upon a massive number of corpses strewn over the jungle floor, although a few of the bodies were slightly moving. He picked up an enemy rifle, walked further, and encountered his wounded nemesis Barnes dragging himself on his belly. Barnes looked up at the grim face of Taylor and ordered: "Get me a medic. Go on, boy!" As Chris refused and raised his rifle, Barnes contemptuously gave him permission: "Do it" - and he was shot three times in the chest. There would be no military justice, only mind-numbing revenge for Sgt. Elias.

Nearby, Chris heard an Armored Personnel carrier grinding along (decorated with a Nazi swastika flag), with US soldiers searching with a German Shepherd for survivors, and calling out: "Look out, Mad Dog! We've got live gooks at three o'clock!" Chris was discovered among the dead and a medic was summoned to treat him. In one of the foxholes, Francis had survived without serious injury, but took his bayonet and stabbed himself in the right thigh to cause a self-inflicted wound. In another foxhole, a traumatized but uninjured Sgt. O'Neill emerged, but was complaining: "The bunch of f--king faggots, they all left me!" Rhah was also alive, engaged in stripping one dead NVA of a small packet of powdered drugs.

In the final sequence, a recovery effort, bodies were being heaved or bulldozed into a deep pit and discarded weapons were stacked high, as Chris (in slow-motion) was carried on a stretcher for evacuation by a helicopter. Next to a somber-looking Captain Harris, it was reported by a radio operator that there were heavy casualties: "A hundred and twenty-two wounded and counting. Estimate 500 Victor Charlie (or VC) K.I.A. (Killed in Action)." Chris spoke briefly to Francis who was jubilant about being sent home after two injuries: "We two-timers, man. We gonna get outta here, boy! I'm gonna see you in the hospital. We gonna get high, high! Yes, sir!" Captain Harris approached Sgt. O'Neill and assigned him to more battle, as leader of Second platoon - he reacted with dumb-shock. Acting almost primal, Rhah waved triumphantly with his arms outstretched to Chris as he was loaded onto a helicopter and flew off.

Chris was medivacked with Francis (now with a bandaged left thigh!), as he delivered the film's ending dialogue (in voice-over) - his last thoughts as he looked down at the overwhelming devastation below - while they flew over the open pit of corpses. After witnessing the atrocities of war, he was no longer the naive, innocent and idealistic recruit who first arrived, but had been corrupted by taking part and incorporating evil into himself. He did, however, have a hopeful, more mature message that he had learned from the hellish war - things could be built again, and others could be taught his wisdom about the meaning of life:

I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy. We fought ourselves, and the enemy was in us. The war is over for me now, but it will always be there for the rest of my days as I'm sure Elias will be, fighting with Barnes for what Rhah called possession of my soul. There are times since I have felt like a child born of those two fathers. But be that as it may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again, to teach to others what we know, and to try with what's left of our lives to find a goodness and meaning to this life.

The film concluded with a tribute (black letters on a white screen) to those who had fought in the devastating war:

"Dedicated to the men who fought and died in the Vietnam War."

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