Full Metal Jacket and Platoon are clearly two of the biggest movies ever made about the Vietnam War; therefore, they will always be compared and contrasted to each other. Platoon was based on Oliver Stone's own experience so he used simple war movie techniques to give a realistic sense of what jungle warfare was like. Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket was based on Gustav Hasford's experience, but Kubrick wanted to use the story to explore what made people into killers. These two films take very different approaches and if we are to compare them it should be in the capacity to understand what war means to the average person. Both of the films are very detailed in depicting what actual warfare is like; however, Platoon gives a great sense of the environment: miserably hot, extremely intense, disease filled, and a very scary environment no one would readily want to visit. Full Metal Jacket explores this too, but focuses a lot attention on the process and training involved in preparing for war.
These two films are a lot alike in two aspects: they both view the war pretty much through the eyes of one soldier and they both seriously glorify war and make it appear very glamorous. Both have strong male leads who it appears live in a strange masculine realm where everyday rules do not necessarily apply to everyday people. This concept is always appealing to males because even if they were never in combat they feel as if they have "experienced" it. Both films explore the attitude of men wanting to and even wishing for combat.
They have the overwhelming desire to engage the enemy in a battle to the death. Sadly this attitude usually ends in tragedy so the lesson here would be be careful what you wish for. A major difference between the two is in Platoon the soldiers are pretty much depicted as brats who sit around and drink all day, do drugs, and even kill their superior officers. This idea was touched on in Full Metal Jacket as well when a soldier, after "going crazy", shot and killed his senior drill sergeant; however, in Platoon this is more of a prominent characteristic of the movie. In Platoon the main character is a rich college kid who dropped out of college to perform his "duty" to his country, while Full Metal Jacket does not portray anyone to be this smart or educated.
That is if leaving school to go half way around the world in a foreign land and get yourself shot at could be construed as smart. Both films depict the harshness warfare has on one's body and more importantly one's mind. They do however address this differently. In Full Metal Jacket we have the training soldier who snaps and shoots his senior drill sergeant. There also is a scene where a helicopter gunner is laughing and yelling as he guns down civilians working in a rice patty, as well as the ending scene where a solider shots a Vietnamese sniper, who is just a teenage girl, in the head. This is done without much said and an empty look in his eye so as to detach himself from what he had just done.
In Platoon American soldiers raid a camp of Vietnamese and become so paranoid they begin to execute them in order to find any weapons. Then an American soldier who believes a Vietnamese boy, who has one leg and is half retarded, is mocking him by smiling at him so he bludgeons the boy to death with the butt of his rifle. This is quite simply a crime of hate and paranoia brought on by the anguish and torture of being in a war. If there is a common link between these two films it is that they are told with content and not necessarily style. The core strength of these two films is not special effects but the contents of what and how the story is being told.
In the end neither Full Metal Jacket nor Platoon left us with answers as to the reasons for the war. The big problems basically went unmentioned which would be: Why did the United States invade the small country of Vietnam? Why did the United States lose the war? These are obvious pressing questions which neither film addresses; however, both glamorize service to our country and we all know that is not a good reason to war. It is my opinion that Platoon is by far the more realistic film of the two; if for nothing else due to the fact that the person who made the film actually was in the Vietnam War and therefore had first hand knowledge of the accounts that went on there making it more "real." That said I liked Full Metal Jacket more so then Platoon. Platoon was a great movie but I liked the humor edge Full Metal Jacket had the first half of the movie to ease the tension and severity of the situation. I also can relate more to Full Metal Jacket then Platoon because of the basic training aspect being covered in such depth as I have been through basic training but not in a war.
Finally, what are we but products of our immediate environment and what more do we attach feeling to or relate to then our very own life experiences? Bibliography Peterson, S. & Olmstead, A. Don't Let 'Em Fade. (2001). Retrieved July 15, 2005 from web Kubrick, S.
Full Metal Jacket, (1987). Retrieved July 15, 2005 from www. web O. Platoon. (1986).
Retrieved July 15, 2005 from web.