Platoon

script used with coutesey of Daily Script


PLATOON


FADE IN:


A QUOTATION AGAINST A BLACK SCREEN:


‘REJOICE, O YOUNG MAN, IN THY YOUTH …’


The sound now of a C-130 air cargo plane roaring over us and we cut sharply to:


EXT.AIRSTRIP – BASE CAMP – VIETNAM – DAY


As the C-130 coasts to a stop, the hatch rotating down on a hot, dusty lifeless airstrip somewhere in Vietnam. Nothing seems to live or move in the midday sun.


TITLES RUN


A DOZEN NEW RECRUITS step off the plane, unloading their duffel bags, looking around like only the new can look around, their hair regulation-clipped, crisp, new green fatigues fitting them like cardboard.


CHRIS TAYLOR is just another one of them – as he turns into a tight closeup, to look at a motorized cart pulling up alongside … He’s about 21. Newmeat. His face, unburned yet by the sun, is tense, bewildered, innocent, eyes searching for the truth.


They fall now on a heap of BODY BAGS in the back of the cart. Two soldiers begin loading them onto the plane. Flies – hundreds of flies – buzz around them, the only cue to their contents.


GARDNER (next to Chris, Southern accent) That what I think it is?


SOLDIER 1 (a look) I guess so …


An uncomfortable look between them.


SERGENT Okay, let’s go …


As they move out, Chris’ eyes moving with the body bags being loaded onto the plane. Moving over now to a motley HALF DOZEN VETERANS bypassing them on their way to the plane. They look happy. Very happy, chatting it up.


They pass the newboys – and they shake their heads, their eyes full of an almost mocking pity.


VETERANS Well I’ll be dipped in shit – new meat! Sorry bout that boys – ‘sin loi’ buddy … you gonna love the Nam, man, for-fucking-ever.


Chris looking at them. They pass, except for the last man who walks slower than the rest, a slight limp. His eyes fall on Chris.


They’re frightening eyes, starved, hollow, sunken deep in his face, black and dangerous. The clammy pallor of malaria clings to him as he looks at Chris through decayed black teeth. Then the sun flares out on him and he’s past. And Chris looks back. Disturbed. It’s as if the man was not real. For a moment there. As if he were a ghost.


Chris walking, duffel bag on the shoulder, looks up at the lollipop sun burning a hole through the sky. A rushing SOUND now. Of frightening intensity, an effect combining the blast of an airplane with the roar of a lion as we hardcut to:


EXT. JUNGLE – SOMEWHERE IN VIETNAM – DAY


The sun matches the intensity of the previous shot as we move down into thick green jungle. We hear the sound of MEN coming, a lot of men. The thwack of a machete. Brush being bulled. We wait. They are getting close.


The CREDITS continue to run.


SUBTITLE reads: December 1967 – Bravo Company, 25th Infantry Division – Somewhere near the Cambodian Border.


A sweating white face comes into view. CHRIS – cutting point. Machete in one hand, whacking out a path for the platoon, M-16 in the other, he looks like he’s on the verge of heat exhaustion. Breathing too hard, pacing himself all wrong, bumping into things, tripping, not quite falling, he looks pathetic here in the naturalness of the jungle. An urban transplant, slightly neurotic and getting more so.


His rucksack is coming apart as well, about 70 badly packed pounds banging noisily.


Behind him BARNES now comes, the Platoon Sergeant. Then the RTO, his radio man, humming lightly. Others are behind, the column snaking back deep into the brush.


We cut around some FACES of the Platoon – all to be seen later. Young faces, hard and dirty after weeks in the field, exhausted yet alert, fatigues filthy, slept-in, torn, personalized, hair way past regulation length, medals, bandanas. A jungle army. Boys.


Chris glancing down at his raw bleeding blisters. Transfers the machete to his other, slightly less blistered, hand. The kid cuts on – struggling but trying, on his last reserves of strength, smashing almost straight forward through brush, not even bothering to look ahead. He smells something, looks around, slows his pace, eyes working … around to the base of a tree. He moves past it.


And as he does so, the camera from his POV comes around on a dead decomposing 10-day-old GOOK – eyes starting from its sockets, worms and flies feasting.


Chris draws his breath in, terrified. Barnes suddenly appears alongside, his hard humourless eyes looking annoyed from the gook to Chris.


BARNES What are you waiting for? He ain’t gonna bite you. Move out.


Chris looks at him with pent-up hatred and crashes on.


EXT. PLATOON PC – DAY – MOVING


At the COMPANY PC, CAPTAIN HARRIS on the radio.


HARRIS Bravo Two, Six. What’s the delay up there, move it out on point. We’ve got a link up at Phase Line Whiskey at One Eight Zero Zero, over.


EXT. PLATOON PC – DAY – MOVING — MORNING


At the PLATOON PC, LIEUTENANT WOLFE sweats heavily as he speaks in his radio. He is also new to the field, a dark little feisty guy, about 24, very hairy, especially in the eyebrows, an intense get-ahead look.


LIEUTENANT WOLFE Two Bravo, Two move it out. Six says we’re jamming ’em up back there. Over.


Barnes, upfront, turns to SAL, his radio man, under his breath.


BARNES Tell that dipshit to get fucked. Get that other freshmeat up here. Gardner.


As Barnes picks up his pace, irritated now at this reprimand from the CO – coming up on Chris, who is soaked now from head to foot in sweat, dizzy, feeling sick, about to vomit.


BARNES (CONT’D) What the hell’s the matter with you Taylor! You a sorry ass motherfucker. Fall back.


He grabs Chris’s machete out of his hand and bulls his way into the foliage, tearing it apart, setting a new pace.


Chris being bypassed by the column, their eyes on him. He is swatting at the red ants that are all over his neck.


GARDNER, another new recruit, fat, hustling up to replace him.


A big and black medic – DOC – comes over, gentle eyes and manner; with him is Sergeant ELIAS, concerned.


DOC You okay?


CHRIS Ants. I got ants on my neck … (shaking them out)


DOC (helping him) Yeah, black ants are killers, you look sick man. You need a little salt. (reaching into his satchel)


Sergeant Elias, a handsome, graceful dark-haired Indian kid of 23, the squad sergeant, is taking items out of Chris’ pack – air mattress, extra unnecessary clothing, extra canteens, grenades, gas mask, books.


ELIAS (shaking his head, amused) You’re humping way too much, troop, don’t need half this shit. I’ll haul it for you but next time you check it out with me okay?


Chris nodding, grateful, panting.


The men passing, watching. Chris sorry about this, trying to keep up face.


BUNNY, a young 18 year-old with an angel’s face, is pissing in the dead gook’s face.


KING passes, glances at him.


KING You’re a sick mother Bunny.


Bunny laughing about it.


Chris standing there one moment, fighting for his breath, suddenly passes out, going over with his 70 pound rucksack, hitting the ground with a loud bang.


ELIAS (concerned) Hold it up.


On Chris – his eyes opening. He seems all right.


CHRIS (trying to get up) I’m okay … I’m okay.


Chris crumples backwards. Elias helps him.


EXT. COMPANY PERIMETER #1 – DUSK


The COMPANY – about 100 men who seem insignificant amid the size of the surrounding jungle – is digging into a perimeter of some 100-yard radius. A RESUPPLY CHOPPER lifts off in a flurry of blowing leaves. Bare-chested soldiers chop down trees, clear fields of fire, set out claymores, fill sandbags, chow down. Little fires snake up against the greying red horizon.


EXT. COMPANY PERIMETER 31 – DOC’S POSITION – DUSK


We cut close on a pair of grungy feet – the staple of the infantry – moving up to DOC, the Medic, bandaging them for FU SHENG, a Hawaiin kid.


EXT. COMPANY PERIMETER #1 – RHAH’S POSITION – DUSK


Rhah sets his tripflare. Crawford, with him, putting out a claymore.


EXT. COMPANY PERIMETER #1 – RODRIGUEZ – POSITION – DUSK


Back in the perimeter RODRIGUEZ sets his M-60 in the newly dug foxhole. SAL, next to him, is shaving in his helmet.


EXT. COMPANY PERIMETER #1 – KING’S POSITION – DUSK


KING looks like a king. A lion of a black man but with a sleepy, gentle face, not to be roused, is painfully trying to scrawl a letter home with the pencil held awkwardly, mouthing the words. FRANCIS, a young baby-faced black with long lashes and soft eyes, peeks over his shoulder, shaking his head.


FRANCIS Shit, King, it ain’t d-e-r-e man, it’s d-e-a-r, and Sara don’t have no two r’s in it, fool. Shame on you.


King shrugs, a sleepy stoned voice.


KING Don’t matter, she knows what it means … an she don’t read too good nohow …


EXT. COMPANY PERIMETER #1 – COMPANY PC – DUSK


Sgt. Elias washes himself, attentive to his body, slender and well-muscled, and extremely handsome youth. Of Indian blood, with long black hair, generous smile, wide facial bone structure, gypsy eyes, and the cleanest white teeth, he could be a young Greek god. He is given somewhat to panache, a silver wristband on his arm, a bandana of black parachute silk hanging from his neck, his fatigues tightened down at the ankle, he pulls his pants down, checking for crotch rot, applying talcum powder to the area, his buttocks facing us.


LERNER, a white kid, 19, from Florida, stopping to admire the frontal view.


LERNER Mumm, any time sweetheart.


ELIAS Lerner, you’d choke to death on it.


EXT. COMPANY PERIMETER #1 – COMPANY PC – DUSK


At the COMPANY COMMAND POST a beehive of activity with its four radios, personnel, some Vietnamese scouts milling around. CAPTAIN HARRIS is running down a field map with his THREE LIEUTENANTS. Harris, a broad-shouldered fine-looking military specimen with the requisite Southern accent and football coach mannerism, is directing his remark to 2nd Platoon’s LT.WOLFE, who looks a little nervous.


CAPTAIN HARRIS Sky Six reports a fresh company of NVA moving across from Cambodia to this blue line. (points to position) We got a good chance to light ’em up tonight. All platoons will set squad-size ambushes before full dark. Lt. Wolfe (glances at him) You ‘bush in this area near that ol’ Buddhist temple we passed on the hump in. Lt. Hawkins, you take this area in the rubber plantation…


LIEUTENANT WOLFE (eager) No problem sir …


EXT. PLATOON PERIMETER #1 – CHRIS’ FOXHOLE – DUSK


Elsewhere, Chris scrapes out a foxhole, his shirt off, bandana around his head, the work hot and heavy.


TEX is out there setting the claymore as BIG HAROLD and JUNIOR start breaking down their C’s.


JUNIOR (a whining high voice) Hey Big Harold, gimme your peaches for the fruitcake man.


BIG HAROLD (laughes loudly) Fuck you bitch.


JUNIOR C’mon man, didn’t I do you right that time I give you the turkey loaf for the ham and lima beans shit.


BIG HAROLD Tricky bitch, reason you gimme dat turkey loaf is nobody else can eat that shit ‘cept me so don’t start your game playing with me Junior.


They’re both black, Junior with huge goggle eyes and a face of pimples and pockmarks, his teeth yellowed and decayed, some of them missing. Harold is about twice his size, about 250 pounds, a baby huey concentrating real hard on preparing his stove to eat with.


JUNIOR Youse a pig man. I hope Manny get dat laundry gig for’ you do.


BIG HAROLD De fool think he’s gonna get it but he ain’t known for his thinking.


JUNIOR He’s a fool alright but you a bigger fool. Hey, whiteboy, watcha waiting for – dat hole ain’t gonna dig itself …


Chris looks up, continues working, as Junior chuckles.


JUNIOR (CONT’D) Hey Taylor, you don’t know it but I saved your ass today. I killed a shit-eating dog. (laughing)


BIG HAROLD (getting up) That reminds me, I gotta take a shit.


JUNIOR You gonna wipe your ass dis time?


BIG HAROLD Yeah if you let me have your shirt.


CHRIS (VOICE OVER, as he digs) Somebody once wrote Hell is the impossibility of Reason. That’s what this place feels like. I hate it already and it’s only been a week. Some goddamn week, grandma … (checking his raw blisters) … the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done is to go on point, 3 times this week – I don’t even know what I’m doing. A gook could be standing 3 feet in front of me and I wouldn’t know it, I’m so tired. We get up at 5 a.m., hump all day, camp around 4 or 5 p.m., dig foxhole, eat, then put out an all-night ambush or a 3-man listening post in the jungle. It’s scary cause nobody tells me how to do anything cause I’m new and nobody cares about the new guys, they don’t even want to know your name. The unwritten rule is a new guy’s life isn’t worth as much cause he hasn’t put his time in yet – and they say if you’re gonna get killed in the Nam it’s better to get it in the first few weeks, the logic being: you don’t suffer that much. I can believe that … If you’re lucky you get to stay in the perimeter at night and then you pull a 3-hour guard shift, so maybe you sleep 3-4 hours a night, but you don’t really sleep … I don’t think I can keep this up for a year, grandma – I think I’ve made a big mistake coming here …


As he speaks, we cut around to various shots of the platoon members on the perimeter – shaving, eating, cooking, playing, etc …


EXT. PLATOON PC – NIGHT


Towards the end of this voice over, we cut to Sgt. BARNES moving towards the PLATOON PC. A powerful face, a quiet, angry fixed stare, a thick trimmed moustache that helps conceal a network of plastic surgery grafts and scars. The distortion from the jaw up the left side of his face to his forehead, punctuated by a severe indentation above the left eye where a bullet once penetrated his skull.


Walking with him is Sgt. O’NEILL as they join WOLFE, Sgts. ELIAS and WARREN at the PLATOON PC where they’re huddled over maps. Warren is a black, thin, tall, paranoid man with untrusting eyes, silent and bitter.


BARNES (to all, almost pleased about it) We got boo-coo movement. 3rd Battalion just got hit 15 kliks north of here. (the MEN react with wary silence)


O’NEILL (eager to elaborate) Yeah, they had claymores strung up in the trees, blew a whole fucking platoon to pieces. BAAD SHIT.


Barnes inflects his next words at Wolfe, who is worried.


BARNES Yeah, they got two Lieutenants and a Captain.


WOLFE Jesus.


Elias quiet. Barnes studying the map.


WOLFE (CONT’D) (to Barnes) Who do you want on ambush, Sergeant?


Barnes doesn’t bother acknowledging the question, barely glancing at the Lieutenant, to him a necessary evil. Everybody knows who’s really in charge of the Platoon. Barnes flicks his gaze to Elias.


BARNES Elias – you take your squad and I’ll take Tex and Francis from your squad. (to Warren) We move out in two-zero mikes. (concluding)


ELIAS I thought it was O’Neill’s turn tonight.


They all look at each other. O’Neill spits in the dust, a freckled, short red head with a hard worried face, a lifer, 30 going on 60.


O’NEILL Shit! Morehouse and Sal are short. Fu Sheng’s going on R&R, you don’t want to send their asses out on an ambush. You got the fresh meat Elias.


ELIAS (to Barnes) They don’t know shit Barnes, and chances are we gonna run into something.


O’NEILL So what am I going to do! Get one of my guys zapped so some fuckface fresh from the World can get his beauty fucking sleep!


ELIAS Hey O’Neill why don’t you cool it, you don’t have to be a prick everyday of your life, you know.


O’NEILL Fuck you Elias.


BARNES You get your men ready Elias …


Concluding the debate, no further argument, Barnes rises. The meeting’s closed. Lt. Wolfe hasn’t said a word, looking as Elias departs, without a word.


O’NEILL (watching him) Fucking guy’s got 3 years in and he thinks he’s Cochise or something …


His resentment directed partly at the way in which Elias carries himself, the natural sense of grace – and the dignity it bestows.


CUT TO:


EXT. PLATOON PERIMETER #1 – SQUAD ASSEMBLY POINT – DUSK


Later. On the very edge of the perimeter, darkness coming down fast, the men in the ambush patrol rustle into their packs, all of them bitching.


Tex, carrying the M-60, looks up at the glowering sky.


TEX Shit, looks like rain. All night too. Gonna grow mushrooms in your bad-ass crotch Junior.


JUNIOR (under his breath) Goddamn ain’t no justice round here, you break your ass for de white man … gonna get our act together, do some rappin’ wid de brothers, change things …


CRAWFORD What’s O’Neill have a nose up the lieutenant’s ass already, how come we always get ambush.


FRANCIS Politics, man, politics. We always getting fucked around here.


Chris is scared, nervous with his last-minute equipment adjustments, his pack obviously overweight for a night mission as he hauls it up.


Gardner, the other new boy, is jovial in contrast, his wallet extended towards Chris.


GARDNER Hey Chris, I show you a picture of Lucy Jean?


CHRIS (not to be bothered) No …


Gardner shows him his girl. She’s real dog u-g-l-y, and what makes it worse is Gardner’s put the standard photo of Raquel Welch alongside it, tits and all. But he misses the irony of it.


GARDNER (admiring) Yeah she’s the one all right … that’s Lucy Jean. She’s a-waiting for me.


CHRIS (nodding) Yeah she’s real pretty, you’re lucky …


Gardner puts it away. Elias appears alongside them, checking their packs out, takes out Chris’s poncho liner and other items. He carries a modified M-16 with a short barrel and a collapsible stock.


ELIAS (to both boys) Don’t need this or this … you’re doing okay. Just stick close to Tex, do what he does. (calling out to Tex) Tex you got Junior and Taylor here on your position.


Tex is a sour Texas Ranger type, chews tobacco, spits.


TEX Damn, ‘Lias this gun’s boss. Put Taylor someplace else.


Chris feels the words like lashes on him.


ELIAS You got Taylor … (to Gardner) … Gardner you go with me (to Chris and Gardner) ‘Case somethin’ happens to you, you get separated or lost don’t yell out okay. Sit tight. We’ll get to you.


His eyes. Chris watching them. A smile in them. Elias moves off, a quality to the man that Chris admires. A natural sense of leadership.


BARNES Okay, let’s move out.


As he follows King, on point, out the perimeter. A single file.


EXT. THE AMBUSH NIGHT (RAIN)


Night is coming down. The tone of the jungle sounds has subtly shifted – mellower, more sinuous and certainly scarier.


The file stops. King, an experienced point man, listens.


Chris – carrying Tex’s linked ammo – looks around, tense. Behind him is Gardner, trying to smile, starts to whisper something (‘Hey Taylor …’) when he’s abruptly shushed.


The file moves on. Gardner’s pack rattling a little too loud. A weird rush of cold wind now rattles the trees and the MONSOON comes. A hard slanting rain, sudden, tropic.


EXT. RUINS – JUNGLE – NIGHT (RAIN)


A piece of an old Buddhist temple, under a sulky moonlight now in a state of decay, the jungle surging to engulf it.


The Men are setting up quickly and relatively quietly in the ruins – alongside a miniscule trail. The rain is coming down harder than ever.


Chris and Tex setting out their claymore mines, raveling back their detonating cords to their position, drenched. In the far distance, an ILLUMINATION ROUND brightens the sky for a brief moment. Various ad lib curses and directions are lost in the sound of the rain.


EXT. AMBUSH – BARNES’ POSITION – NIGHT (RAIN)


At the Ambush CP, Ace whipsers into his radio. A soft hissing sound.


EXT. AMBUSH – CHRIS’S POSITION – NIGHT (RAIN)


Later. Close on Chris being shaken awake.


TEX Taylor, you’re on.


CHRIS (groggy) Uh hunh.


The rain continuing to pelt them. Tex hands him an infrared scope.


TEX (suspicious) You sure you know how to work the claymore?


CHRIS (offended) Sure.


Tex curls up as best he can in his poncho to sleep.


TEX Okay … don’t catch no zzz’s on me buddy or I’ll sling your motherfucking ass … You hear me?


CHRIS (grits his teeth) Yeah. (looking at his watch) Hey Tex – you’re ten minutes fast.


TEX Sin Loi. (‘tough luck’, closes his teeth)


Chris lets it go, scans the jungle and trail with the scope. The POV is greasy and blurred. He puts it aside.


Suddenly a series of resonant SNORES crack through the jungle. Chris starts, then sees it’s from JUNIOR lying out there, spreadeagled in the rain. Chris prods him.


CHRIS Junior!


JUNIOR Unh? … Unh.


CHRIS Shaddup! You’re snoring … Shhh.


Bending low into his eardrum. Junior never wakes, rolls over with a growl. Silence.


CUT TO:


EXT. CHRIS’ POSITION – NIGHT (RAIN)


Later. A pool of muddy water has formed, in which a pair of buttocks sit. Move up to Chris still on duty, looking at his watch, drawn, drenched, pathetic, rainwater coursing down his face.


CHRIS (V.O.) (continuing his letter) … ‘Course Mom and Dad didn’t want me to come, they wanted me to be just like them – respectable, hard- working, making $200 a week, a little house, a family. They drove me crazy with their goddamn world, grandma, you know Mom, I don’t want to be a white boy on Wall Street, I don’t want my whole life to be predetermined by them.


A large RIPPING SOUND as the wind blows down a big tree branch onto the jungle floor. He starts, peering out. Nothing. He looks at his watch again.


CHRIS (V.O.) (CONT’D) … I guess I have always been sheltered and special, I just want to be anonymous. Like everybody else. Do my share for my country. Live up to what Grandpa did in the First War and Dad the Second. I know this is going to be the war of my generation. Well here I am – anonymous all right, with guys nobody really cares about – they come from the end of the line, most of ’em, small towns you never heard of – Pulaski, Tennessee, Brandon, Mississippi, Pork Bend, Utah, Wampum, Pennsylvania. Two years’ high school’s about it, maybe if they’re lucky a job waiting for ’em back in a factory, but most of ’em got nothing, they’re poor, they’re the unwanted of our society, yet they’re fighting for our society and our freedom and what we call America, they’re the bottom of the barrel – and they know it, maybe that’s why they call themselves ‘grunts’ cause a ‘grunt’ can take it, can take anything. They’re the backbone of this country, grandma, the best I’ve ever seen, the heart and soul – I’ve found it finally, way down here in the mud – maybe from down here I can start up again and be something I can be proud of, without having to fake it, maybe … I can see something I don’t yet see, learn something I don’t yet know … I miss you, I miss you very much, tell Mom I miss her too – Chris.


He moves towards Junior, shakes him, but Junior seems to be out of this world.


CHRIS (CONT’D) Wake up!


Junior opens one dead eye.


CHRIS (CONT’D) It’s your shift, man …


Junior scowls, swears, looks around for his rifle in the mud.


Chris crawls back to his position, curling himself up in his soaked poncho, teeth chattering from the cold, rain splattering over him. A long beat. He sighs, the sigh kicking off the next image.


EXT. CHRIS’ POSITION – NIGHT


Chris jerks awake – very suddenly, very frightened. THE RAIN HAS STOPPED. The jungle sounds are loud. Cicadas, night animals, water dripping hypnotically from leaf to leaf. And the whirr of a million mosquitoes out after the rains, chewing at Chris’ face. He looks around, startled.


Tex is asleep. Junior is asleep. What happened? He looks at his watch. The mosquitoes are eating him alive. He buries his head in his green towel which he wears around his neck, but he can’t see. A beat. He moves again, miserable from the bites. Another beat. Then suddenly the sounds of the jungle shift – some of the animals dropping out. A different tone. A piece of wood is stepped on, a rustle of bush …


Chris sees something, lifts an edge of the towel to peek out.


A shoadow of a figure is frozen there in front of him about 15 yards. It looks like a man. But it doesn’t move. At all. It listens.


Chris, his heart in his mouth, tries to peer through it. It’s a bush. It has to be. No human being could stand that still. His heartbeats are up. The moments take forever. But deep down – somewhere in his psyche – he knows who it is.


The figure now shifts, ever so slightly – and moves. It IS a human being. Oh my God!


Chris looks around. Tex seems like a mile away. Why doesn’t anyone fire! He casts a desperate look at his rifle, at his grenades encrusted with mud, but in spite of all his training, he is frozen with indecision and fear at the sight of his enemy.


The figure seems to whisper something back, then turns and comes down the trail. Now a second and third figure appear behind him – all in helmets and packs. All coming right past Chris’ position. Ten yards. Nine.


Chris is rigid with terror. Stark eyes. Pleading with Tex to wake up, but out of reach. He is about to have an anxiety attack, his heartbeats so far up he is sure they will hear him.


The first figure is now directly in front of Chris on the trail, looking left and right. A rattle of his equipment, a creak of leather. A smell. The man’s face now catches the moonlight and his eyes come around on Chris.


Oriental eyes. Looking right at him. Startled. Chris staring back, hypnotized. It all happens very fast. The figure murmurs something in Vietnamese. A warning. He swivels.


A flash of muzzle fire. A raking cough of automatic fire. A grenade explosion.


Chris is hurled to the ground, helmet bouncing off, scattered, confused, jarred. All hell breaks loose around him with NOISE and SHOUTS.


Tex, kissing the ground, is yelling at him.


TEX THE CLAYMORE! GET THOSE FUCKERS!


Chris, not knowing what he’s doing, is fumbling with the claymore handles, presses them. INSERT: They won’t give. He tries again and again to the squeeze the life out of them. Tex is screaming at him.


TEX (CONT’D) THE SAFETY! TAKE THE SAFETY OFF YOU …


Lunges over and grabs the handle from Chris. Clicks the safeties off and blows them.


Three EXPLOSIONS rip out into the night – and one of the ENEMY is caught in a brief instant looking like an X-ray, his body lifted and swirling in the air, then enveloped in swirls of smoke.


Chris, trying to keep up, grabs his M-16, lays out a stream of fire. The sound all around him is deafening.


EXT. GARDNER’S POSITION – NIGHT


Gardner, freaking out, stands crouched, confused, tries to run, collapses.


EXT. O’NEILL’S POSITION – NIGHT


O’Neill throws a grenade, wild.


EXT. CHRIS’ POSITION – NIGHT


An explosion. Chris hits the deck.


Tex is now on the M-60 machine gun, yelling at Junior who is cringing on the ground.


TEX Feed me!


He lays out red tracer bullets like laser beams, then suddenly reels back, whiplashed, screaming. A grenade explosion rocks them.


TEX (CONT’D) AAAAAGHHH! MY ARM! MY ARM!


His hand and wrist are gone, his face in the dirt. Junior is fumbling around, trying to stay down and help him at the same time.


JUNIOR (grabbing Tex’s gun) DOC! GET UP HERE! TEX IS HIT!


Chris, looking out to his front, has no clue what’s going on. Except the fire is slacking. Relayed shouts of ‘Medic! Medic!’ Other SHOUTS.


SHOUTS HOLD IT UP! HOLD IT UP!


The firing has ceased. A silence, punctuated by occasional shouts and fast moments, has enveloped once more the cemetery. Doc crashes through the bush, kneels over Tex, who continues to howl in deep pain.


TEX (freaked out) MY ARM! JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!


DOC Easy Tex easy boy!


Trying to sound calm but his voice is on the edge, examinging the mutilation with a pen flashlight, he whips out his morphine in a big hypodermic.


VOICE (next position) Doc over here! Gardner’s hit.


DOC ‘Right there.


As he slips the morphine into Tex’s arm.


TEX (muttering at Chris) … godamn! Godamn! DUMB FUCKER, DUMB FUCKER!


Chris watching, suddenly feels himself dizzy, instinctively runs his hands over the back of his neck. Feels the warm blood there. A moan comes from his lips. Junior looks at him.


JUNIOR Oh shit, Doc he’s hit too.


CHRIS (weakly) I’m hit …


Barnes and Big Harold come hustling up.


Doc finishes tourniquetting Tex, cradles Chris onto the earth, his flashlight probing the wound. Tex in background continues to thrash and moan.


Chris waits, tensely for the verdict, his eyes big with fear on Doc, who takes out his morphine.


JUNIOR (to Barnes, pointing at Chris) That dumb fuck didn’t blow his claymore!


Chris hearing this. Barnes looks at him.


DOC (to Chris) … it’s a scratch, nothing to worry about.


CHRIS (suspicious) Doc … tell me the truth, don’t lie to me.


The needle goes in. Tex lets out this strange keening moan that sets everyone’s teeth on edge.


JUNIOR (to Barnes) He let’em walk right up on us. He was sleeping on his shift.


CHRIS (muttering weakly) I was not … it was your …


DOC (leaving, to Harold and Junior) Self-preservation’s the first law of nature. Gotta learn how to work your shit Taylor. Watch me, don’t let’em go into shock.


Tex’s moans are maddening and scary. Barnes suddenly clamps his hand over Tex’s mouth shutting him up and from way down deep in his throat, chokes out the words.


BARNES Shut up! Shut up – and TAKE IT! TAKE THE PAIN!


Tex’s eyes roll wildly, uncomprehending. Doc and Big Harold looking at Barnes, wondering. Tex is suddenly silent, shocked. Barnes stands, an icy glare, goes. Junior scrambles over to Tex’s side. Doc runs off.


Big Harold cradles Chris, his big black hands like a mother, reassuring him.


BIG HAROLD You gonna be okay Taylor, okay, don’t you start worrying now.


Chris looking up at him, eyes blinking slowly, dazed already by the morphine. He’s very scared.


CHRIS Do you … do you know you’re gonna die … Big Harold? … do you feel like … like … everything’s gonna be fine and then …


BIG HAROLD Bullshit man, you gettin outta the field, man. Three hots a day, white sheets, dem pretty white nurses give you blowjobs too you pay em enough, I heard tell bout dem white bitches. Better save yo strength Taylor.


JUNIOR (muttering darkly) Don babytalk him man. Cocksucker fell asleep. They walked right up on us, he don do shit.


BIG HAROLD Shaddup bitch.


Chris is gettin woozier, feeling he is dying but starting to grin, not caring about it anymore. Yet he is nowhere close to dying.


CHRIS It’s not … so bad … dying. How long .. it …


EXT. TRAIL – RUINS – POSITION #1 – NIGHT


Barnes stands over a moaning, ripped up ENEMY SOLDIER. FIRES his M-16 point blank into the head. The Soldier bucks and dies, quivering.


EXT. TRAIL – RUINS – POSITION #2 – NIGHT


ELIAS, checking out a blood trail some distance away, shifts on the shot, looks back.


EXT. TRAIL – RUINS – POSITION #3 – NIGHT


FRANCES, MANNY, BUNNY and KING are huddled over another mangled enemy corpse.


BUNNY (stripping the corpse) That’s no NVA man. That’s a chink – look at ’em, the cocksucker’s six and a half feet tall. Look at his gear – good as ours.


FRANCIS Shit I blew my claymore right in one dude’s face and I seen him walking around afterwards.


MANNY What we fighting here, vampires?


EXT. TRAIL – RUINS – POSITION #1 – NIGHT


Elias comes up to Barnes swiftly, indicating the blood trail leading off into the bush.


ELIAS Blood trail just keeps going and going but no body.


BARNES How the hell did he get away?


ELIAS Fuckers returned fire soon as we lit ’em up. Hard core fuckin’ NVA. They got their shit together.


RING (coming up to Barnes) Sarge – Doc wants you. There’s a problem with the new man.


Elias and Barnes go with King. Past Chris and Tex who are ambulatory and bandaged, being helped along. As Barnes passes, the men look at him, everybody quickly senses something is wrong.


EXT. GARDNER’S POSITION – NIGHT


At one of the positions Doc is working feverishly to knock the life back into Gardner who lies there, his shirt stripped off on his cottage cheese belly. A huge sucking chest wound. He’s dying. You know it because he knows it. The eyes do the talking, numb, terrorized yet strangely detached, accepting, not protesting or concerned any longer.


Most of the ambush has assembled and is watching, Chris moving in to see. Doc is mumbling to him, low key.


DOC Chopper’s on the way Gardner, hang in there, you gonna be okay …


But Gardner seems unconcerned. Things are going on in his head – who knows what. And in his eyes there are big tears rolling. Then a morphine smile. A sort of goofy Gardner smile, maybe thinking about Lucy Jean, who knows. He’s dead.


BARNES (to all) Take a good look at this lump o’shit … (motions to Gardner’s body) Rmember what it looks like, all of you. You fuck up in a firefight and I guaran-goddamn-tee you, a trip out of the bush – IN A BODYBAG. Out here, assholes, you keep your shit wired tight at ALL times … (glares directly at Chris) and that goes for you, shit for brains. You don’t SLEEP ON NO FUCKIN’ AMBUSH. Next sonofabitch I catch coppin’ z’s in the bush I’m personally gonna take an interest in seeing him suffer – I SHIT YOU NOT …


He thumps Chris lightly but menacingly in his chestbone and moves on.


CHRIS (drowsy) I didn’t fall asleep, Sergeant, Junior …


BUNNY (pissed, cuts in, shoves him hard) Shut your face chicken shit! You in big trouble boy!


O’NEILL Excuses are like assholes, Taylor – everybody got one.


ELIAS Knock it off! We got two men need attention here. Police up your extra ammo and frags, don’t leave nothing for the dinks. Hoyt, Junior, carry Gardner.


JUNIOR (muttering) Let de white boy carry his ass, he this dude that got him fucked up. Who’d be hauling his ass if that was a brother laying there?


Elias follows Barnes out of earshot of the others.


ELIAS Man’d be alive if he’d had a few more days to learn something.


Barnes, registering it, just keeps on walking.


EXT. BASE CAMP – DAY (WEEK LATER)


Chris is driven up in a jeep to his Company PC – marked ‘Bravo PC’ on a C-ration box. It’s midday on a hot lazy afternoon, few people out in the 102 degree sun.


Chris’ Company is on the outskirts of the base camp, their barracks regulation wood, canvas, and fine mesh screening, red dust everywhere, bunkers down on the perimeter, reams of barbed wire and concertina, a sand-bagged MESS HALL and CHAPEL, 81 mm mortar pits, observation towers, recoiless rifles, 50-caliber machine guns.


Chris gets out of the jeep, stiff-necked, a bandage around it, still in some pain. The first man he intersects is KING, carrying crates of beer.


KING Hey Taylor, what’s in the breeze?


In King’s mild tone Chris tries to read his standing in the platoon.


CHRIS Okay – got light duty, three days.


KING Shit, too bad we in base camp anyway.


CHRIS What you got there – beers?


KING Yeah, just stole me some from the Top’s supply but he’s stealing it from us anyway. (sees somebody coming) Chucks are coming. You better ‘didi’ man.


Too late. Sgt. O’NEILL, the redhead lifer accompanied by Spec 4 SANDERSON, a big handsome blond kid, not too bright in the face, both slightly drunk, come around a corner, beer cans in hand. O’Neill sees Chris immediately.


O’NEILL Hey Taylor – you back?


CHRIS (pause) Uh, looks like it?


SANDERSON (spotting King’s beer) Where’d you get that beer King?


KING (a funny look) I found it …


SANDERSON You found it? … Bullshit! You going on report. Gimmee that shit.


O’NEILL Awright, come here both of you. You too Taylor (wags his finger) Got a little special job for you.


They advance toward him reluctantly.


CHRIS I got light duty, Sarge. Doctor said to take it easy couple days.


O’NEILL (laughes) … ain’t that tough shit now.


EXT. THE OUTHOUSE – DAY


A wooden cabin with some half-dozen seats built over half barrels cut from empty oil drums. A guy is in there, pulling up his pants.


Chris, King and Crawford, a California blond with a handsome honeyed look, are sweeating heavily as they roll the barrels out from under the outhouse, the smell of human waste strong. A hot midday emptiness, nobody around except the flies.


KING (pissed) … Motherfuckah, motherfuckah, I’m too short to be dealing with this shit! They keep fucking with us man, no letup …


CRAWFORD (equally pissed) Politics man, fuckin’ politics. That O’Neill man got his nose so far up Top’s ass he gotta be Pinocchio…


KING Forty-two days man and a wakeup and I’m a gone motherfucker. Back to de WORLD. (dreaming in his eyes)


CRAWFORD Broke a 100. Got 92 to go. April 17. DEROS man. California this summer. Waves are good they tell me, surfin’s gonna be good …


KING March man in Tennessee, sniff the pines … sniff that crossmounted pussy walkin’ down by the river. What you got Taylor? (a snicker) Let’s see three hundred and WHAT?


CHRIS … 32. 332 days.


CRAWFORD (groans) Oh man! Sorry bout that. I can’t even remember when I was 332. You gotta count backwards like you got 40 days in – think positive.


KING (to Chris) How the fuck you get over here man, you look like you educated …


CHRIS I volunteered.


KING You WHAT? Say ‘gain.


CHRIS Yeah, I dropped out of college and told ’em I wanted infantry, combat, and Nam …


He grins, finding their reactions funny. It’s also the first time we’ve seen Chris crack a smile.


CRAWFORD You volunteered for this shit man?


KING You a crazy fucker, givin’ up college man.


King has long sleepy eyelids and cat’s eyes, a large pink tongue and big white-edged cotton picker’s nails – a lazy, gentle nature, content with the world.


CHRIS Didn’t make much sense. Wasn’t learning anything … (hesitates) And why should just the poor kids go to the war – and the college kids get away with it.


King and Crawford share a smile.


KING What we got here a crusader?


CRAWFORD Sounds like it.


They pause, wipe the sweat off. King lighting up a half-smoked joint, hitting a few puffs, eyes shooting around, making sure he’s not spotted, passing it to Crawford.


KING Sheeit, gotta be rich in the first place to think like dat. Everybody know the poor always being fucked by the rich. Always have, always will.


Noticing Chris is having trouble with his neck, picking at his bandage.


KING (CONT’D) You okay man? Neck botherin’ you?


CHRIS Nah …


KING Here have some of this. Won’t feel a thing.


Chris looking at the joint, a little apprehensive. He’s never smoked.


CHRIS No, thanks …


KING Go on, whatcha gotta lose, yo’ here now …


CRAWFORD Kills the smell of shit anyway.


The joint proferred. Chris waits a beat, shrugs, takes it, smokes.


KING Suck it in. Hold it … That’s it. Now let it out.


Chris blows it out.


CHRIS Don’t feel it.


King and Crawford chuckle, go on rolling the cans.


KING Dat’s what they all say.


CUT TO:


EXT. OUTHOUSE – LATER – DAY


King, Crawford and Chris pour kerosene over the cans at a secure distance from the outhouse.


King lights it. The cans pop and start crackling. A line of burning barrels. Rings of dirty black smoke rise against a soft blue sky.


They watch, stoned. Chris turns to both of them.


CHRIS … you know that night we got hit … I … (ashamed)


KING Fuck it, don’t mean nothing, no such thing here as a coward, done your best man, next time y’do better.


CRAWFORD History, man, history.


Chris surprised at their attitude. The joint suddenly hits him, a look in his face, eyes looking around different. Over at King.


CHRIS (deadpans) I think I’m starting to feel that stuff …


Crawford laughes.


KING (laughes) Yo getting there Taylor. You be cool now and I’ll introduce you ’round to some of the ‘heads’.


CHRIS What are the heads?


KING (laughes, walks away with Crawford) Later …


Chris alone, breathes deep, feeling the full effect.


EXT. BASE CAMP – NIGHT


A relief against the long harsh, hot day. We see lights on all over the camp, sounds of music, laughter from the barracks.


INT. UNDERWORLD HUTCH – NIGHT


King leads Chris down to a specially constructed cellar-like hutch dug deep into the ground on an isolated edge of the battalion perimeter. Ammo casing and canvas are piled over it, and sandbags surround it. From the outside very little sound can be heard as they go down through a trap door made of ammo crates. Past a lookout (Adams) pulling security, hitting a joint but alert. King motions to him, it’s cool.


Inside is another world. Chris looking around amazed. It’s like a private cabaret for the ‘heads’ who are there cooling out. Boxes of food from the States, beers, whiskey bottles, crates functioning as tables, hammocks hanging from poles, electric fans, tape decks, paraphenalia.


The boys are all dressed up in their Saturday night rags. The clothes are clean, the headbands, the medallions are out, anything distinctive and individualistic. On the tapedeck, Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Go Ask Alice’.


To Chris it is a new world. And RHAH, the resident head, sitting there in all his finery puffing a huge burning red bowl in a three foot long Montagnard pipe, seems to be the lord of final judgement in this smoky underworld.


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