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Platoon and Hurt Locker Essay

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Jenna Davidson

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Final Paper

        Platoon and the Hurt locker are two powerful films focusing on the evils of war from a first hand a Basis. These films share the similarity of being focused around a male protagonist, have themes of war being death and addicting as well as the cinematography. Although these two films appear as mirror images, their nature is far from it. Platoon, featuring main character Chris Taylor is a brutal and brilliant recreation of director Oliver stones real life observations and personal experiences in the Vietnam war. Stone was able to bring to life a tragic tale of good and evil and moves the audience to feel appreciation towards his story and sympathetic for all of the Chaos that ensues. On the other hand, Hurt locker is considered a Stolen story, following William James and his dark desire for violence. Although the story is beautifully displayed on the screen, it may not be accurate of the character’s actual experience, a concept to be explored later. The two films are masterpieces of art and excellent portrayals of war times. However, how factual these stories were when brought to the screen varies drastically. By exploring both films, comparing them and using in class texts to support the argument it is easy to see the way two different directors constructed these characters to show the impact war has on them, and how they approached created authentic fiction out of real events.

        The first film, Platoon dives into the life of a college drop-out volunteer, Chris Taylor and his journey through the Vietnam war. We see how his masculinity develops over time but also the fear of a young child remains stagnant behind this exterior. The struggles of the entire platoon, fearing the unknown are extremely authentic as we see and hear actual events that occurred in the life of the director, Oliver Stone. The director himself wrote the movie based off of his own experiences tweaking very minimal events and adding dialogue to scenes he once witnessed. By making this film an auto-biography in a sense, we are able to sympathize with James and his journey. The audience never sides with one world, Staff Sergeant Robert Barnes or Sergeant Gordon Elias, but rather feels just as stuck as James in choosing which path to take in order to achieve this “manhood”.  Much different than in Hurt Locker, Chris Taylor is developed out of the life of a man writing his story down, just from a different name and body. In a recent interview with the Smithsonian, Stone notes that the harsh scenes that critics and audiences were distraught over were simply included because they actually happened, any Vietnam veteran would agree. For example, when Taylor discovers an underground unit of innocent civilians hiding and he ends up shooting at their feet, this actually happened. Stone did not want to sugar coat the war, and despite his tender and innocent side, he, like Taylor had to take actions required by the pressures of the war. He said the Vietnamese were mute and afraid, much like him and as a result he shot at them to send a message of frustration. In the interview Stone says he was not proud of this, but this was war and lying about the way it affected him and many others would be a false representation.

        The film was brought to life in the most authentic way possible, showing the struggle to keep one’s humanity under the strict military attitude, the ignorance and the racism. I think this is what makes the character and the journey so believable, that ignorance is present. As he transforms from new recruit to survivor and is welcomed into the bunkers of Elias, we watch how such a drastic transformation barley effects him in the ending scenes and finds within himself the innocent boy he arrived as. This presence of James and his changing identities so drastically in such a troubling time varies greatly from the way that William James is represented. Although some of his struggles are accurately represented, the film is far fetched from a reality. As stated in an article on Europe news week, “Americans want to think they know what the ground truth is in Iraq, but until Hollywood and the media give them the right information, our experience will continue to be lost in translation” (Newsweek 2010). Let’s take a closer look at how the director transformed this factual story to a too-fictional screen play.

        The Hurt locker is by no means an inferior movie to Platoon, in fact most audiences prefer it. However, the way that screenwriter, Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow created scenes of tragedy, death and recklessness by main character James appears to be far fetched from reality. First of all, neither individual have had experience in the Afghanistan war, making their decisions and choices far from authentic. Although the film brings to life the theme that War is Drug, most veterans would agree that despite this concept being very true, many others in the film would never happen. For example, Service Members need to train for years to perform the job they do at high combat and they would never run around on their own unless they want to be sent to court or killed, as James does a variety of times in the film. Also, “The Hurt Locker strains credulity further when it shows that soldier reentering the base with no identification. Here is the reality: this soldier would likely be shot by a guard on duty while sneaking around the perimeter—but, then again, that probably wouldn't make for a good plot addition” (Newsweek 2010). His character’s foolishness is offensive to audiences especially the man who claims this storyline is based off of his own.  Master Sergeant Jeffrey S. Sarver to be exact, and he filed a lawsuit claiming that the film makers turned an account of his tense experiences defusing bombs in Iraq into the highly regarded action-thriller without his consent. In fact, several scenes were based on stretched out truths of Sarver’s accounts. He said the film made him a subject of ridicule and put his life in danger the way he was portrayed as a powerful and carless bomb disposer who savored violence over anything else in life (Woodall 2010). In a court filing, Sgt. Sarver wrote: 'Because the actor portrays me as a reckless soldier and idiot, this portrayal is being reflected upon me at work, at home, and amongst friends.

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