The essential story is only true if it describes William Calley and My Lai, or what that could have been if the villagers had been saved by a Messianic Sergeant Elias (Dafoe) instead of being gunned down by a Satanic Barnes (Berenger as a Calley knock-off). If Stone had simply made it the "My Lai Massacre", it would have been historically accurate, but what he did was pernicious. He wanted to convey to millions of moviegoers that My Lai was the norm, and he cast this ordinary platoon of grunts as driven to a My Lai-type war crime by the very nature of his view of our illegitimate role in Vietnam.
Stone was in Vietnam and I was not, but the history of Vietnam is not a history of ordinary units run amok in racist killing sprees. Stone infuses the story with humanity and heroes. Sheen plays Chris, an idealist, based on Stone's vision of himself. Want a fact? Here is a fact. Oliver Stone is not in the same league with the idealized Chris character. He is not a pimple on Chris's rear end.
Chris is a hero and a survivor. Dafoe, as Elias, is a Christ-like figure who protects his "brothers" and shows no fear, even when chasing "Charlie" into that most dangerous of places, the underground tunnel system. His death, portrayed on the posters, is a wide-armed crucifix, and it is avenged by Chris, his disciple who takes to the challenge with the passion of the converted. A final battle also shows something that rarely, if ever, happened. North Vietnamese regulars overrun the Americans. In actuality, they won all the battles against the NVA. Then, the commander has to make a call and have the whole "pod," friend and foe alike, napalmed in another stretch on history.
Berenger and his "super lifer" pals are shown to be corrupt, have a taste for death, and little accountability in a situation that lets them kill "gooks" with racist impunity. This is not out of the question. Soldiers are trained killers, and combat de-humanizes them. The Audie Murphy characterizations are not true, either. But Stone has created a vision of the Vietnam experience that is not portrayed as a special circumstance, but rather the average, the every day. His political message is very clear, and it is to discredit the objectives of the war. He also discredits a lot of his buddies who fought with him. He does demonstrate the inhuman behavior of the Communists, which as a combat Marine he saw for himself, but strongly urges the viewer to buy into the sickness of America.
This film seems to parody the lies of John Kerry during the Winter Soldier investigation. Me? I'm rootin' for America.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism