Casualties Of War

"Excellent"

Casualties Of War Review


Vietnam War movies are always tough to watch, especially for those of us who go through life burdened with liberal guilt. But of all the Vietnam movies out there, none is more painful to watch -- and paradoxically more beautifully shot -- than Casualties of War, in which all of director Brian De Palma's prodigious talents are in full effect. To steal a line from another Vietnam classic: "The horror..."

Based on an allegedly true event that was reported in the New Yorker, Casualties is a stripped-down tale of a small platoon of Army grunts who head into the jungle only to lose their humanity, a trope that has traveled from Conrad to Coppola to here. It's Satan in paradise, wreaking havoc and leaving unexplainable carnage behind.

The combat-hardened platoon leader Meserve (Sean Penn) comes up with the idea to kidnap a village girl (Thuy Thu Le) and bring her along on their trip as a sex slave. As the top-ranked soldier, he is to be obeyed by the four other soldiers in the group, and the fact that he's a very screwed-up kind of guy only adds to the fear with which they regard them. There isn't much initial resistance, except from the mild-mannered Ericksson (Michael J. Fox), who is new to Vietnam and finds himself mercilessly bullied by his superior. He gets agreement from only one other solider, Diaz (John Leguizamo), that they won't participate in sex with the girl. The other soldiers, Clark (Don Harvey) and Hatcher (John C. Reilly), think it's a pretty good idea overall. Clearly their moral compasses have been thrown out of whack by too much time in the bush.

Try to imagine how horrific the film's climactic scenes are. Now imagine something much worse. It's excruciating to witness what happens as Meserve ultimately gets what he wants and forces the others to participate, in some cases at the point of a rifle. De Palma doesn't just go for gore. The horror here is magnified by his insistence on contrasting the crime with the absolutely beautiful environment in which it takes place. It's paradise lost for sure.

Back on base, Eriksson makes the brave if naïve decision to report the platoon's actions, and for his efforts he's treated like a pariah. Fox, only one year beyond his Family Ties sitcom silliness, rises to the challenges of acting as the film's moral voice and sharing scenes with the always intimidating Penn. Also keep your eye on the young Leguizamo, who tackles a tough role with real bravery and honesty.

If De Palma makes any mistake at all, it's sticking with the script (co-authored by Vietnam vet David Rabe) and including an epilogue that dilutes the film's power rather than enhance it. It's jarring and not really necessary to find Eriksson riding a San Francisco bus on a lovely sunny day several years after the fact. The rather obvious point to be made is that even in such a pleasant setting he's haunted by his experiences, but we could safely assume that after seeing what's seen.

Despite that minor blip, Casualties of War ably demonstrates just how powerful a well-crafted film can be. You'll be utterly wiped out by the time it's over. Proceed into the jungle at your own risk.



Casualties Of War

Facts and Figures

Run time: 113 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th August 1989

Box Office Worldwide: $22.5M

Budget: $22.5M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 25 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Fred C. Caruso,

Starring: Michael J. Fox as Private Eriksson, as Sgt. Tony Meserve, as Cpl. Thomas E. Clark, John C. Reilly as Private Herbert Hatcher, as Private Antonio Diaz, as Lt. Reilly, Thuy Thu Le as Oanh, as Brown, Jack Gwaltney as Rowan, Dan Martin as Sgt. Hawthorne, as Capt. Hill

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.