Platoon - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
In 1986, Oliver Stone cemented his status as a legendary filmmaker with his deeply personal and horrifying journey into the Vietnam War with Platoon. In 2022, this incredible film comes home to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an unfortunately frustrating Dolby Vision transfer in a new two-disc set from Shout Select. Stuck with the same master supplied for their previous SteelBook Blu-ray release, the image offers some improvements but suffers from over-managed grain and harsh colors. While the audio tracks and bonus features are solid, fans may want to hold back from a double or triple dip and stick to their older Blu's for now. At best, this one is Worth A Look
Inspired by his own experiences, Oliver Stone's anti-war epic tells the tale of PFC Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen, Wall Street), a young Army recruit sent to Vietnam, who witnesses the atrocities of war –many of which are carried out by those Chris calls "comrades." Heralded by critics as the best film of 1986, Platoon won four of the nine Academy Awards® for which it was nominated including Best Picture and Best Director for Oliver Stone, and earned Best Supporting Actor nominations for co-stars Tom Berenger (Inception) and Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire).
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
As a kid of the 80s I grew up in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. My media wasn’t about trying to win a war so much as coming to terms with the shame of a decade-long conflict that saw little if any gains. It could be argued that the only accomplishments of the war were over 52,000 U.S. servicemen killed, over 150,000 wounded, over 1,600 missing, and untold numbers traumatized without even being able to account for enemy combatants and innocent civilians. As such, it remains a fascinating piece of American history. People have sought to try to figure out some sort of understanding of what happened there and why and how it all went wrong. There have been hundreds of films and documentaries, but one of the most personal examinations of the conflict came from someone who was actually there, Oliver Stone with 1986’s Platoon.
Charlie Sheen stands in as the idealist Chris, someone who signed up willingly because he didn’t like seeing the guys without his resources getting screwed over by the system. His conscience is caught in a battle of ideals with the hardline Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) and the peaceful warrior Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe). Chris essentially is the audience surrogate showing us the horrors of the conflict as they unravel devouring the men one firefight at a time.
Platoon was an award season favorite justifiably winning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, and Best Film Editing with nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor nominations for Dafoe and Berenger. I was all of four years old when this film came out in theaters but I felt like it never left the public attention. My local video rental shops always had a poster up for it. My friends and I would play “Platoon” at recess. And if that wasn’t enough, I owned the Platoon video game for NES. All these years later the film still resonates. It’s a deeply personal and affecting work that doesn’t pull its punches. The combat sequences are thrilling but not exploitative or manipulative nor do they glorify the war. It’s not out to promote the war machine or justify the foreign policy that brought those men to the country. Because it’s working hard to keep the politics out of it, we get a war film about losing ideals and our humanity to chaos. In my book, Platoon is one of the very best war films ever made.
For another take on Platoon check out our 2011 Blu-ray Review
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
After numerous releases on DVD and Blu-ray, for the first time Oliver Stone’s Platoon is drafted for a tour of duty on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a new 2-disc Collector’s Edition from Shout Select. The 4K version is pressed on a BD-100 disc with the 1080p version coming in on a BD-50. Both discs are housed in a standard black 2-disc case with identical slipcover artwork. Each disc loads to a standard animated main menu with basic navigation options.
There was a lot of excitement when Shout released their SteelBook Blu-ray of Platoon back in 2018. After several DVD and Blu-ray releases with middling results, folks were looking forward to the new restoration approved by Oliver Stone himself. Sadly the excitement quickly faded. The image was reframed a bit, darkened, and featured a new color scheme that pushed greens towards minty neons, topped off with over-zealous grain management that left the film looking like it was shot through cheesecloth. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, that same master has been used for this 4K disc release.
While Dolby Vision HDR helps mitigate some of the coloring issues and restore some of the murky black levels, this isn't the night and day improvement as some had hoped for. As soon as the film opens there’s evidence of heavy-handed grain management. This isn’t completely a smoothed-out waxy monster, there’s still an appearance of film grain, but it has been fiddled with significantly altering fine details with a generally muddy appearance. Depending on the shot, details can fluctuate significantly. Things look worse around fades and optical transitions while leaving some shots looking quite good giving you some hope for what this film could potentially look like without such heavy tweaking. An example is when Chris is digging the foxhole and stops to pop his blisters and Junior starts giving him crap. You can see cleaner lines for foliage, sandbags, and even some improved clothing details. It might be a tad more yellow/green, but not completely unappealing as it adds a little more to the olive-drab army aesthetic that was in season throughout the war. Scenes in the 2011 disc that looked overly smooth without grain structure actually have a little bit of an organic cinematic appearance again. Other shots that already looked great on the 2011 disc like when Barnes is interrogating the old man in the village are suddenly void of a grain structure, lack fine detail, and are oddly much darker for a scene that takes place in open daylight.
Then there’s the color timing. While the original MGM Blu-ray could look a little hot pushing skin tones a little warm and almost orange, here they’re generally unhealthy, ashy, and greens are now quite bright with the film as a whole taking on more of a yellow tone leaving blue skies looking almost bright white in some places. Primaries are also muddled with yellows, blues, and reds lacking a lifelike presence. The film is also graded several stops darker than past releases. The original MGM discs could be argued as too bright, but this is overcompensating. As a result, scenes like the opening fire watch or the film's big climax lose clarity with overly dark black levels and can appear quite flatter than past discs.
As I said there are moments where this film can look very good, better than ever in fact, but those sequences are few. When news of the 2018 Blu-ray turned out to be so bleak, I picked up the digital streaming 4K Dolby Vision when it was on a cheap sale for a few bucks. This disc offers up virtually the same transfer with a much higher bitrate so trouble spots do look better than the streaming and certainly better than the 2018 1080p Blu-ray, but it’s still a disheartening and unfortunate missed opportunity. Folks quick to point the finger at Shout for this need to keep in mind boutique labels are often stuck with what they get with little wiggle room to make their own alterations. MGM did the restoration work and Oliver Stone signed off on it. It is what it is and like so many rough Blu-ray and 4K discs we've endured over the years, we'll just have to hope for better the next time around.
For this release of Platoon, Shout brings in a pair of audio options, a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Playing the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track against the 2011 Blu-ray, I just couldn’t tell much of a difference - if any. This mix has always been a little bit of a frustration because it’s active and engaging a lot of the time, but there are long stretches where there’s little to no surround presence, or it's so minimal that it just doesn’t make much use of the channels. Now switching on my setup’s DTS Neural:X function I felt like the mix picked up a desirable kick in the pants offering more spacing and resonance in those side channels. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix is perfectly decent but feels especially front-heavy. Now depending on how you’re set up at home, it’s a perfectly good track but I’d still lean towards the 5.1 overall.
Sadly nothing new is in the rations here. All of the materials on these discs have been ported over from past home video releases.
- Audio Commentary featuring Oliver Stone
- Audio Commentary featuring Dale Dye
- Audio Commentary featuring Oliver Stone
- Audio Commentary featuring Dale Dye
- Snapshot In Time: 1967-1968 (SD 19:15)
- Creating The ‘Nam (SD 12:04)
- Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon (SD 17:19)
- One War, Many Stories (SD 25:33)
- Preparing for The ‘Nam (SD 6:37)
- Deleted/Extended Scenes w/ Optional Audio Commentary (SD 11:32)
- Caputo and the 7th Fleet (SD 1:39)
- Dye Training Method (SD 3:23)
- Gordon Gecko (SD 1:07)
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
Oliver Stone’s Platoon is a masterstroke of filmmaking. It’s a deeply personal film for the director and with its proximity to one of the darkest chapters in American history, it still resonates nearly 40 years later. It’s a terrifyingly unflinching look at the conflict that took so many lives and ruined countless others while delivering some genuinely excellent performances from its cast of young actors.
Shout Select gives Platoon another run on disc, this time as a two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set. Sadly the same troublesome 4K Dolby Vision master Oliver Stone approved and supplied by MGM has been carried over for this disc. I was dearly hoping that in the last couple of years between releases a new master without the obnoxiously obvious grain management would have been struck, but sadly that didn’t happen. While there are some improvements to celebrate here and there, it’s not enough to overcome the cooked-in shortcomings making this one of a growing number of controversial troublesome 4K discs to hit shelves. Some may be fine with how this transfer looks, I just don't count myself as a member of that group. While the audio options and bonus features are nice, at the end of the day I’m left recommending you hold on to your previously released 2011 Blu-ray - which had its own film grain issues but was not nearly as bothersome. At best, this set is Worth A Look for those who haven't yet added this excellent film to their collection.
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