Just the other day I was scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch, when I stumbled upon the movie Platoon. We had just recently watched Apocalypse Now in class, which takes place in the same era as Platoon so I decided to watch it. Platoon, directed by Oliver Stone, is a film following a soldier through the jungles of Vietnam (“Platoon”). Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is another film taking place in Vietnam only in this film the main character must track down a missing Colonel who has been acting out of orders (“Apocalypse Now”). From the beginning of Platoon I began realizing how similar the two movies were. Whether comparing the genre the similarities are very apparent. After viewing both films completely I deciphered that both films are similar in the aspects of genre.
As I mentioned in my introduction genre is an important aspect of Platoon. The genre of this film is “war” (“Platoon”). War is a narrowed genre though it combines broader genres such as action, drama, and occasionally documentary to accurately portray war in a realistic way. These aspects can be witnessed throughout the film although Platoon is not a documentary. An example in the film that best captures this genre is Sergeant Elias, played by William Dafoe, is running out of the jungle covered in blood being chased by the enemy. This classic scene represents the war genre because it captures the violence of war, as well as capturing the drama aspect when Sgt. Elias raises his arms to the sky just before falling on the ground dead. This displays the war genre by capturing the horrors of war while still sneaking in the dramatic aspect in the manner that Sgt. Elias died. This genre is also shown through the way the characters interact with one another. In the movie there are several scenes that take place in the base camp where the characters are often seen drinking and smoking in order to cope with the stress of war. For this reason they also often get into arguments and sometimes even fist fights from their drug and alcohol use. Lastly there is a scene when Charlie Sheen and his company invade a small village looking for enemy supplies. After yelling at villagers for a while with little to no corporation they shoot several of the villagers and burn the village down. The drama can be seen in the tension between the villagers and the soldiers that eventually leads to action when the soldiers open fire.
Apocalypse Now displays a very similar hybrid genre to Platoon. It too features a war genre that combines drama and action to also portray Vietnam accurately (“Apocalypse Now”). Although Apocalypse Now uses this genre in a different manner. In Apocalypse Now there is less actual gun fights and violence most of the drama that is seen throughout the film is the emotional toll the war and the mission has taken on the soldiers. For example when some Playboy Bunnies are brought to the main camp in order to cheer up the soldiers. A lot of them behave like animals some even jumping up on stage to try and grab some of the girls, which are immediately evacuated. This is a dramatic scene because it shows the effects of being isolated in the jungle with nothing, but other men. Another example of this genre is when the soldiers board a boat they believe is carrying supplies for the enemy. When one of the women will not stand up off a box one of the men shoot her only to find that she was hiding a puppy. This takes a large toll on the soldiers and their mental stability. This supports the war genre because of the violence in the scene as well as the drama of the high pressure situation.
As I mentioned in the above paragraphs describing the two movies genres I described the genre as “war,” but this is not necessarily a genre. The proper term would be hybrid genres, movies that combine multiple genres in one (Esteban). In the case of my two movies action and drama are combined effectively to show just how intense war is and the mental toll it takes on soldiers in Vietnam.
As I explained in my introduction both show a similar genre, which is war. As I explained earlier both movies feature high pressure drama scenes that usually lead to intense action scenes. For example the “puppy scene” in Apocalypse Now and the village scene in Platoon. War is also represented realistically in scenes such as the Playboy Bunny scene in Apocalypse Now and the fights at base camp in Platoon. Both scenes accurately portray the effects war can have on one’s mind from the large amounts of stress the soldiers undergo.
Although both movies genres are very similar there are some differences. Apocalypse Now there is a larger focus on drama and the effects of war on soldier’s mental health. For example there are far more scenes of the soldiers talking to each other. On the other hand there is a large focus on violence in Platoon like when Charlie Sheen is on guard duty and their camp is attacked.
Overall I believe the two movies are more similar than they are different. They share the war genre even though the two are slightly different in its focus. Regardless both movies are fantastic representations of the Vietnam War and how difficult surviving in the jungle was.
“Apocalypse Now.” British Film Institute. N.p.. Web. 16 Dec 2013. <http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2b69562aa2>.
Dauth, Brian. n. page. <http://sensesofcinema.com/2006/great-directors/coppola/>.
Esteban, Jose. “Genres: Where to Draw the Line?” British Film Institute. Film Forever, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.
“Platoon.” British Film Institute. N.p.. Web. 16 Dec 2013. <http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2b758d3f19>.