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

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

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.