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

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

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.