Disturbing and highly compelling war/drama. (by HumanoidOfFlesh)
"Casualties of War" is based on a horrifying true accident which took place in 1966.Some American soldiers abducted a teen-age Vietnamese girl and dragged her on a long-range reconnaissance mission.They tortured,raped and finally murdered her.Michael J.Fox is excellent as a the only soldier in the platoon who tries to stop the violent crime.Thuy Thu Le is also impressive as the victim-her performance is so convincing that I'm surprised that she hasn't appeared in the other movies.The rape/murder scene is among the most heart-breaking sequences ever captured on screen.The <more>
film is well-directed by Brian De Palma "Sisters","Carrie","Dressed to Kill" and it delivers the message which tells the viewer that war is hell and can turn young men into monsters.A must-see for fans of disturbing and thought-provoking cinema.
Although Platoon may have gotten more acclaim, by far the best film on the Vietnam War is this one. Casualties Of War is going to leave Platoon way in the dust when history has its verdict.Though Sean Penn's got several great films to his credit, by far this is the best work of Michael J. Fox on the big screen. His soldier with a conscious who can't live with himself after witnessing an act of barbarity that the other men of his squad commit should have brought him an Oscar nomination. In fact there could have and should have been a few of them for this film. Fox plays a young soldier <more>
only a few weeks in Vietnam. On patrol Sergeant Sean Penn saves his life, but then on a second patrol because Penn and friends could not get leave to bleed the lizard as they say, they kidnap a young Vietnamese woman and take her on patrol. All the men on the patrol, Penn, Don Harvey, John C. Reilly, and John Leguizamo all gang rape the girl, but Fox refuses. Later on he's got a crisis of conscience.Kids who grew up on World War II movies and westerns with clearly defined good and bad guys were ill prepared for a war in Vietnam. So was our government which had been involved in more or less degree since the end of World War II and the breakup of French Indochina. The subtleties of the regional politics eluded our policy makers in Washington. It was mighty hard to tell who was a friend and who was an enemy. You treated anyone with a yellowish pigmentation and slanted eyes as an enemy, the only friends you knew were the ones wearing the same green jungle fatigues as you were.The war twisted Penn and Harvey. Leguizamo and Reilly were essentially followers, only Fox who hadn't been there long enough to have his sense of morality impaired could see this was all wrong. That's the frightening part of Casualties Of War. None of the four could see anything wrong, even Leguizamo who sees his first duty as to stick with the guys who have your back in the field.As good as Fox and Penn and the rest of the Occidental cast is, the best performance in the film is Thuy Thu Lee. As the bewildered and frightened young girl she will positively break your heart with her one and only film performance.Casualties Of War was shot in Thailand so we're seeing actual Southeast Asia locations. Brian DePalma's direction of his stellar cast is right on target. Don't ever miss Casualties Of War about the ultimate Vietnam experience.
Masterpiece! This movie is magic and makes me sad that our country was ever involved with that vile war of nothingness, and no I am not against the troops. I think Johnson was an idiot and that he should never have sent the soldiers they did not know what they were doing they were just doing what they were told. At that time the vast majority of the people over their could not even vote, how sick is that. What makes it even sicker is the way the American public treated these heroes upon their return, and yes they were heroes even though it was an unjust war they are still our soldiers and <more>
they were fighting for us, and they should have been respected as such. Michael J. Fox does a great job in this showing the naiveness among the soldiers at the time and Sean Penn does a good job showing how bad a persons psyche can go when pushed to the limit for something they don't believe in. I do not condone what Sean Penn's character does in the film and he was rightfully punished but I can see what drove him to it. Brian De Palma does another stellar job with his visual style that will never be toped and the lighting is great in this movie. I hate that it bombed at the box office, because everyone should see this. Great movie.
De Palma's heroes often fail to rescue women from their ill fated destinies. In his blood soaked worlds, women are objectified and then cast aside, often killed by phallic tools drills or manly instruments shaving blades . The high school rituals in "Carrie", the low budget exploitation films in "Blow Out", the porn flicks in "Body Double" and "Black Dahlia", all portray women as tokens of capitalist exchange. In "Obsession" this exchange revolves around international business, in "Blow Out" and "Snake Eyes" it <more>
revolves around national politics, in "Scarface" it revolves around organised crime and in "Dahlia" it revolves around Hollywood.Critics have used this to label De Palma as a masochist who hates women. It took Pauline Kael, who championed De Palma as a feminist director who targets, not women, but rather, the patriarchal order, to lay the foundation for a slew of feminist writers embracing De Palma's films."Casualties" replaces Kubrick's metaphorical rape of a female sniper with the literal rape of a Vietnamese civilian called Oahn . Both director's treat war as the defiling of the Feminine Other, though Kubrick goes one step further and internalises it "death of the Feminine equals loss of self" becomes a Kubrickean dismissal of Jung: "there is no self" . In "Casualties of War", the rape is thus not only a single incident, but symbolic of a larger patriarchy threatened by national and racial difference.Tellingly, the film opens with a train drawing to a halt. Only women and 2 black men leave the carriage. They've been dispatched and so we zoom in on Erickson played by M. Fox , who sleeps against a window. His head occupies the right of the frame whilst the left of the frame is distant and out of focus. This right-left composition will be repeated throughout the film, firstly when a black trooper called Brownie is killed, secondly when Sean Penn recounts Brownie's death and thirdly when Oahn is killed. These deep focus shots work as a moment of contrast, recollection and mourning. In the first, we see Fox in the foreground, asleep and oblivious to his surroundings. In the second, we see Brownie dying in the foreground, while Vietcong hide in the background. In the third, we see the reverse. Oahn is stabbed to death in the background, while Fox fires at Vietcong in the foreground.De Palma also uses the notion of vertical space to separate each portion of the film. The first act is subterranean, Fox linked to underground tunnels. The second act is above ground, De Palma stressing dry, flat landscapes. In contrast, the third act takes place on a series of hills, whilst the fourth act takes place on a high-rise bridge. The tall bridge and the underground tunnel frame the rape story. We watch as Fox ascends further and further into hell.De Palma uses the first act of the film to set up genre conventions. Here, Sean Penn is the hero. He rescues Erickson, kills the savage Vietnamese animals and prances about like John Wayne, spewing tips and wisdom of the jungle. The fast talking black guy, the noble sergeant, the new recruit, the dirty Vietnamese...all these genre conventions are quickly set up, only to be reversed twenty minutes later.Sean Penn, in his first piece of meta-acting, plays his character as a cross between John Wayne and De Niro's Vietnamese psycho from De Palma's "Hi Mom!". After the death of Brownie, he chooses to take his men to the local brothel. They plan to hook up with some whores and vent their anger, but learn that the village is off limits, as the Vietcong troops are busy visiting the whore houses themselves. This drives Penn mad. "Charlie is getting my pussy!" he yells. What follows is the group's attempt to win back and conquer the Feminine Other. They want "her", simply because the enemy has "her". To have "her" is to deny the enemy.The scenes in which Oahn is dragged from her village and later raped are some of the most powerful moments in De Palma's filmography. When her battered face is revealed, it's hard not to cry. Later, De Palma cross-cuts Oahn's death with a POV shot down the scope of an American rifle. The point is clear: every shot fired, in every war, is a knife in Oahn's chest in Vietnamese, Oahn means "injustice" .De Palma is a smart guy and he knows that making an anti-war film means making one in which the audience gets no visceral kick out of violence. Like Kubrick or Jancso, his violence has a dry detachment. And like "Come and See", it's often subjective and stretched to operatic lengths. This morbid tone is largely why the film has failed to capture audiences. Man wants the excitement and primal bloodlust of a "Platoon", "Black Hawk Down", or "Saving Private Ryan", most of these films functioning as "war porn", a form of catharsis or gratification violence always has a sexual element . The existential disappointments of a "Casualties of War" or a "Come and See" are unsettling and no fun at all.After Oahn's death, we watch as Fox tries to get the "bad apples" jailed. Significantly, this portion of the "dream" begins with Fox "waking up" back in camp. With the release of De Palma's "Redacted", this much derided final act now seems only more powerful, allowing us to empathise with the gang of rapists, to balk at their harsh sentences, even as we despise their actions. Fox then wakes up a final time, sees Oahn leaving the train and notices that she's left her scarf behind. He rushes after her. We briefly recall Oahn's mother handing her daughter a scarf prior to her being kidnapped. The camera then cranes upwards, taking Fox to one final level. The credits roll.8.9/10 - Masterpiece. Requires several viewings, if only to properly attune yourself to what De Palma is doing.
One of the most under-rated films of all time (by brycemansfield-1)
I have always been mystified as to why this movie has not gotten greater recognition. Maybe because Penn's portrayal of Meserve seems like over-acting. Or maybe because Ericsson seems too clean. In any case, I did a research paper for a film/literature class on this movie a bunch of years ago.For those of you wondering how close the film is to the original report in the October 1969 edition of the New Yorker: the answer is "pretty darn close." Even the names used in the film match the "fictional" names used in the magazine article. And, believe it or not, Ving <more>
Rhames' speil about his 'hospital experience' was actually reported in the article.Without making this a "spoiler", the main differences are: 1 There was no one named "Brownie". But it is easy to figure out the dramatic reason he was included in the film. 2 There was no "Hatcher". Instead there was a second "Diaz"...apparently they were cousins. 3 Captain Hill was not quite the jerk he is made out to be in the film. He was reluctant to do anything substantial...but he did have an occasion to tear a strip off of the guys in the squad. 4 There was no railway scene and the dramatic act that is presented there actually happened one day later than the film would have you believe.Anyway, I just think that this movie is perfect because it shows so well at a micro-level why Vietnam was a war that couldn't be won. You can't win a war serve the political objective when you don't have the support of the people. Watching this film, it is easy to be sympathetic or at least understand how each group felt...even Meserve. The underlying politics meant nothing to either side the US soldiers or the South Vietnamese . The result was a total disregard from each side and for each side and they were supposed to be on the same side . This movie shows that perfectly.
Viewers should note that this film is based on a true story that appeared in both magazine and book format. Having read the original I can say that the film takes only a few liberties with the reported facts. This indeed an "original" story because it wasn't made up -- just like Serpico wasn't made up. See earlier reviewer remarks. This is indeed a gut wrenching film. Penn does overact a little and the final scene seems like a bad effort to make sure audiences don't walk away too depressed. But overall, this was a movie that HAD to be made.
Tragic and haunting (by Lupin-9)
While not as good a Vietnam movie as Platoon or Apocalypse Now, Casualties of War nevertheless delivers the emotional punch through DePalma's depiction of how war can truly bring out the worst in people. Similar in content to the village massacre scene of Platoon, Casualties actually hits home with greater force the horrific conduct and depravity of how low these GIs had been morally reduced to. You almost cringe at certain scenes such as Corporal Clark's callous crooning of The Door's "Hello, I love you" while escorting their victim on the march. By being able to fully <more>
empathize with Erikson, we feel appauled and helpless as we witness his uncontrolable situation, and can't but help feel a bitter satisfaction when he lays into one of the soldiers with a shovel back at base camp. I felt angry and depressed at how any human being could act the way these soldiers did, and was haunted long after the movie's conclusion. Based on a true story, we realize the true tragedy of what has occurred at the movie's end, when Erikson returns to the present from his flashback and the girl suggets that he had had a "bad dream". The painful reality is that it wasn't just a dream, anymore than the whole Vietnam War was. DePalma examines in great depth not just the ethics concerning warfare, but the values of right and wrong & good and evil, which every single one of us on this planet faces. Just as in Platoon with Charlie Sheen's concluding helicopter voiceover, and Saving Private Ryan's portrayal of the aged Ryan asking his wife "have I been a good man, have I led a good life?", Casualties of War highlights a similar concept when Erikson states that one should never abandon their sense of morality-to cease caring- just because they are surrounded by the possibility of death. Overall you are left with a harrowing feeling that is akin to the likes of having watched Schindler's List or The Killing Fields.
Casualties Of War is a great Brian De Palma film. Sure it's not his best work but it is intense and suspenseful storytelling. The cast is good. Michael J. Fox was a surprise to say the least in this movie. I didn't think he would hold his own with Sean Penn. Fox more than holds his own, I believe he overshadows Penn. This would not be the case if Sean Penn wasn't overacting so much. He is all over the place with his character. De Palma continues to be one of the great stylist of modern cinema.
A Brutal Depiction Of A Brutal Event In A Brutal War (by sddavis63)
It seems to me that the ultimate moral of this story might be that in war everyone is a casualty in some way, shape or form - even those who are never wounded and stay personally above the brutality. "Casualties Of War" is a depiction of an actual and sickening event that was first reported in the New Yorker magazine in 1969 in which a squad of American soldiers kidnap, rape and murder an innocent, young Vietnamese girl.The two main protagonists in the movie are played by Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn. Penn is Meserve - the sargeant in command of the squad who develops the plan for <more>
the kidnap, rape and murder. He represents one type of casualty - a kid, promoted way beyond his years, in a situation he should never have been in, watching friends and comrades dying on a daily basis, becoming jaded and unfeeling as a result. You feel no sympathy for his character, but you recognize the tragedy of his character - and of the other members of the squad who let themselves be pulled into the plan. Fox, on the other hand, is Eriksson - the squad's conscience. He knows this is wrong, and he refuses to participate, even trying to help the girl escape, only to be derided and ridiculed by the others as either a coward or a homosexual. After the girl is killed, for no real reason, he reports the incident to his superiors, only to hear repeated variations on the theme "let it go. War is war." This is probably Michael J. Fox's most powerful movie role ever - a definite change of pace from the teen-oriented comedies that had made him famous. He's also a casualty, of course - haunted forever by the sickening scene he had witnessed. And of course, there's the real casualty - the young girl dragged out of her home and away from her mother who endures a nightmare before being killed.This is most definitely a powerful, disturbing and brutal movie that definitely makes it point.