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Casualties of War

Casualties of War

Genders: Drama, History, War

Director: Brian De Palma

Writer: Daniel Lang (book), David Rabe (screenplay)

Actors: Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn, Don Harvey, John C. Reilly

Year: 1989
Run time: 113min
IMDB score: 7
Updated: 8 months ago

Movie infomation

Movie name: Casualties of War

Genders: Drama, History, War

Imdb Score: 7

Runtime: 113min

Released: 18 Aug 1989

Director: Brian De Palma

Writer: Daniel Lang (book), David Rabe (screenplay)

Actors: Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn, Don Harvey, John C. Reilly

Company: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Imdb Link

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Soldier With A Conscience

10/10 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 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.

one year ago

Disturbing and highly compelling war/drama.

10/10 "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 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.

one year ago

<< Thuy Thu Le is central to its success >>

5/10 `Casualties of War' belongs to the same year as that other anti-war film `Born on the Fourth of July'. From about the mid-eighties American feeling rose bitterly against the aftermath of the Viet Nam war: the price had been too high. Too many young men killed or wounded and, worse perhaps, too many young men psychologically scarred for the rest of their lives. `Casualties of War' does not point any accusing fingers at anyone: the film is an anguishing account of a horrendous series of actions based on real facts. Even so, our interpretation must go a little beyond what the film tells us, what we are seeing. We must ask how many more service-men lost their nerve in the middle of that jungle inferno which was Viet Nam?

Brian de Palma obliges us to enter into that indescribable hell, so that we might, with a bit of luck, if our feelings can bear the torture of witnessing such inhumane irrationality, understand a little more the agonising palpable naked terror which so many men had to go through.

However, whether Michael J. Fox or whether Sean Penn played their part better seems to overlook an obviety: without that performance by the Vietnamese girl, Thuy Thu Le, this film would have been forgotten years ago. My first seeing of that fragile creature – some years ago – left me nauseated, my stomache churned and I had bad dreams for several nights. That pathetic little face and her screams of anguish haunted me for days afterwards. Her performance was so compelling, rivetting, anguishing, it had me hating being a man. I only just stopped short of throwing up. Perhaps nobody expresses this better than `Tony's Corner: a Fan's Notes' (


It is one of those performances that no Oscar can ever pay for: indeed such a triviality would have been an insult. The film is cruel, sickening, loathsome, heartbreaking; but something humane, something I can't explain, something deep inside me, compelled me to see this poor `wretch' again, compelled me to witness once again her tremendous scream of despair against the bestial inhumanity of war – any, every and all war. I have no love of morbidity: I shun such ridiculous programmes. But this poor creature called Thuy Thu Le forced me to see the film for a second time.

Enough: I will never see this film again. I have seen naked desperation and fear so realistic that my soul seethes to boiling point and is about to burst thus twice. That will do. In the end we are all casualties of war.....

No vote: I cannot reduce this to a simple vote. It just would not have any real meaning, would it?

one year ago

"Nobody cares"

5/10 This is a true story of what happens in war when morality and ethics are tossed aside. The killing that is involved in war gets mixed up with murder, bigotry, and revenge in this factual horror story.

Fox is excellent as the naive but ethical young man exposed to a "Nobody cares" atmosphere in the midst of war. The film not only shows what can happen to human beings when they let go of any sense of conscience, but it is also a metaphor of the amoral mentality that was behind the Viet Nam conflict and its aftermath.

The struggle depicted here is between going along with the group or maintaining one's own integrity. Are there rules of war? Are there rules of living? These are the profound questions which underlie the action in this disturbing film.

one year ago

gripping tale of war

5/10 The odd thing about this film, is that it could've taken place with any background. War, college campus, neighborhood gang. The real plot is about the affects of rape and murder on the good guy and the bad guys. The Vietnam war just happens to be where it really took place, so we are entered into that gritty world of sudden violence, if not sudden death. Fox is a rookie soldier joining Penn's squad. Penn sort of casually mentions that they're gonna find themselves a girl to "keep up morale" while they are on their journey. This involves abducting a young farm girl from her villiage in the middle of the night, not affected in the least by the girl's hysterical mother. Each man (it's a group of 5) has his different reaction, Riley as the dumb "go along with anything" soldier does exactly that, Harvey, in a terrific wacko performance, loves the idea, with Leguizamo and Fox opposed. But Leguizamo, feeling the equivalent of teen peer pressure, does not back Fox when the two want to approach Penn about his antics. So Fox is left in an awkward position the rest of his stay in the field with his squad. There is of course, a confrontation, in a drawn out scene, where toughies Penn and Harvey accuse him of being gay and not doing to the enemy what they deserve. This is the core of the film's impact, as they quarrel, the girl is raped, and then Penn demands that Fox kill her! When she becomes ill, Penn fears her coughing may give away their posistion, so he berates Fox to stab her. He refuses, and in an ensuing arguement, the girl tries to get away, which ends up leading to a chaotic scene in which she reaches a slow, painful demise. The rest of the film deals with Fox trying to bring attention about what happened to his mostly deaf and incompotent superiors. That brief summary, though, barely scratches the surface of the emotionally charged scenes you will experience in the movie. There are many sad moments even before the girl is introduced. And then audience anguish when we think that maybe these men will get away with what they did. The key to the impact is, of course, the performances. Penn is his usual out of control self, who you may feel bad for, seeing how he's such a dedicated soldier and even decent guy before the kidnapping. An underrated and hardly known Don Harvey, I think somewhat outshines Penn with his always angry, scary corporal whose dark eyes and contant scowl give him a great intimidation factor. Riley makes you roll your eyes with his convincing moron, a guy who baffles as to why he'd get into the army, with his I.Q. seeming to be below 40. Leguizamo you try to forgive because of how he's afraid of being attacked verbally, or even physically, by his partners. You can understand his dilemma. Le, as the girl, as expected has little to say, but in her facial expressions, shows us the fright and terror that's enough to jar us. And as far as Fox is concerned, a PERFECT performance and choice for him to show us his dramatic side. He did so sometimes on "Family Ties" and in a couple of cinematic bombs (i.e. "Light of Day", "Bright Lights, Big City") but those works did not nearly approach the powerful scope that this film exhibits. And he puts his dramatic talent on full blast, displaying the mental exhaustion so well, from the disturbing events he went through. It was a very big key to his career when he decided to take this. Some might say how can you make entertainment out of rape, but the one scene of it is only 2 minutes long, with the real story here of how people handle themselves in crisis. The only mis-steps were the sometimes overly violin-ey score, getting a little too weepy here and there. And also the fact that even though Fox is the one good guy of the film, we never find out his first name! But there are too many hard hitting moments of realism to sink this, with the best highlight being the strong acting.

one year ago