It’s easy to forget now because it’s been so long, but there was once a time when Johnny Depp wasn’t a famous, household name actor. At one point in his career, he wasn’t the main attraction in a movie and didn’t headline the production. But that was a long, long time ago and a lot has happened since the mid-80s. Though his career is in a bit of turmoil now, this aforementioned time did exist and one of his first movies, in which he had a smaller role, is about to leave Netflix. But you still have time to catch Platoon before it heads off the platform on May 1st.
Platoon came out all the way back in 1986 when Johnny Depp was just breaking into the industry. At this point, he was a relatively unknown actor being called on for a smaller part in a somewhat controversial war film. Platoon follows a group of soldiers during the Vietnam War and details, with brutal imagery and gripping intensity the literal hell that was this war. It tells the story of a group of soldiers who’ve essentially been ruined by their time in the war and are now at odds as much with themselves as they are with the group they’ve been sent there to fight.
At the center of the film is Charlie Sheen’s Chris who has just been sent into action in Cambodia. There he joins a group of soldiers who are already definitively at odds with each other and have actually created something like rival factions just within their own troop. They are distrustful of their leadership, don’t really like each other, and have been stripped of most of their humanity along the way. Johnny Depp is a member of this group though for much of the movie operates on the sidelines.
Chris soon finds that there is almost no reprieve in the jungles of this war. If they aren’t fighting the Vietnamese, they are plotting ways to kill each other out of hatred, disrespect, lack of trust, fear, psychosis, and all the other things that happen to men when they are pushed to the brink in the name of violence and bloodshed. The movie isn’t an easy watch in this respect, but that’s only because it apparently is incredibly accurate. This was a hellish time and the soldiers, Johnny Depp included are basically dead even if they do make it out of the war alive.
Platoon was written and directed by Oliver Stone and he used his own experiences in the war to dictate much of what happens on screen. It became one of the films that really began to launch his career. It did the same for others like Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen to name a few as well. Stone would go on to do Wall Street, Talk Radio, Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors, and Natural Born Killers all in the next eight years after this. It’s an incredible run for the director, but Platoon is really what started it.
And the cast was first-rate as well. In addition to Charlie Sheen and Johnny Depp, there’s Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger who head up rival factions within the group. Other notables include Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Mark Moses, and Corey Glover.
Platoon would go on to win a number of Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing. Dafoe and Bringer were both nominated for Best Supporting Actor awards, though neither took one home. It has been named one of the best war films ever made and has consistently received praise for how it doesn’t pit one army against the other but rather uses the complexities and turmoil of battle as a discussion on morality.
As for Johnny Depp, this movie did help launch the beginning of his career. Just a year later he’d land the starring role on 21 Jump Street which really began to put the actor on the map as a first-class talent. He’d go on to start teaming up just a few years later with Tim Burton when they made Edward Scissorhands.
These days though, it’s not all great shakes for Johnny Depp. After his much-publicized divorce from Amber Heard and subsequent court proceedings, he’s lost high-profile roles in Pirates of the Caribbean as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So though the actor might not see big productions for a while now, there is a chance to check out where his career really started by catching Platoon before it leaves Netflix.