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
http://mcel.pacificu.edu/mcel/dlef/vietfilm.html
Kubrick, S. Full Metal Jacket, (1987). Retrieved July 15, 2005 from
www.http://imdb.com/title/tt0093058/
Stone, O. Platoon. (1986). Retrieved July 15, 2005 from
http://imdb.com/title/tt0091763/