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Casualties of War (1989)


Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 30
Fresh: 25
Rotten: 5

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Counted: 2
Fresh: 1
Rotten: 1


Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 21,374



Movie Info

Casualties of War was based on a New Yorker article by Daniel Lang. This, in turn, was inspired by a true incident which illustrated the dehumanizing aspects of the Vietnam experience. Michael J. Fox plays Eriksson, a member of an American squadron stationed in the deepest jungles of Southeast Asia. Sean Penn co-stars as Meserve, the squadron sergeant, who vows revenge after his best friend is killed. He orders his men to invade a village and "requisition" a young Vietnamese girl (Thuy Thu Lee), … More

R (adult situations/language, violence)
Drama , Action & Adventure
Directed By:
Written By:
Daniel Lang , David Rabe
In Theaters:
Dec 11, 2001
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


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Critic Reviews for Casualties of War

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (5) | DVD (14)

This Vietnam War saga, inspired by a true story, is among De Palma's better pictures, devoid of his usual gimmicry and cynicism.

Full Review… | April 23, 2011

It's a fat glop of obvious screen manipulation that preserves a frightening human core, making the life and death struggle all the more shocking.

Full Review… | August 26, 2009

De Palma uses his consummate filmmaking skill to craft a reflection of his own grave sorrow about the Vietnam era.

Full Review… | September 6, 2006
Slant Magazine

Fox is quite touching here, topped only by Sean Penn in a superb, frightening performance.

Full Review… | August 28, 2006
Combustible Celluloid

Disturbing anti-war film with strong Sean Penn and surprisingly effective Michael J. Fox.

June 8, 2006
Dispatch-Tribune Newspapers

ably demonstrates just how powerful a well-crafted film can be

Full Review… | March 4, 2006

A tour-de-force for De Palma, Penn and Fox - possibly one of the best war movies ever made

Full Review… | February 25, 2006
Film Threat

Worthwhile drama set in the Vietnam War

December 17, 2004
Film Journal International

Harrowing drama with strong performances

October 7, 2004
Kalamazoo Gazette

Examines the dehumanizing effects of war, and implies that the soldiers who commit the atrocities are as much a victim of that dehumanization as the girl who they victimize

Full Review… | March 19, 2003

Superb, overlooked Vietnam drama may be Brian DePalma's finest hour.

Full Review… | November 7, 2002

The equation of sanctioned and unsanctioned barbarism in the climactic moments of Casualties is about as damning an indictment of the way that humanity justifies immoral acts during war as I've seen.

Full Review… | November 6, 2002

Michael J. Fox is a little hard to buy in this one.

October 19, 2002
New Times

Too strident in its anti-war sentiment. Penn almost comes across as a caricature.

October 5, 2002
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

An underrated film with perhaps the greatest performance that Michael J. Fox ever gave. DePalma looks at Vietnam through a different persepective than an audience is used to, making this far from your typical war movie. Penn, as always, is riveting to wat

August 9, 2002

Who'd have thought De Palma had a war flick in him?

July 25, 2002

Based on a true incident during Vietnam War, the film testifies to our hopes that there are a few ethical souls who believe the weak must be protected.

Full Review… | February 14, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for Casualties of War


DePalma's epic war film explores the dark sides of men in combat and features many outstanding performances.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

Based on actual events, this is a gripping examination of of a squad of soldiers who find themselves heavily embroiled in the moral quagmire of the Vietnam War.
PFC Eriksson (Michael J. Fox) is an idyllic soldier new to the territory. He's soldiering with a squad of hardened men lead by the young but volatile Sgt. Tony Meserve (Sean Penn). After Meserve's best friend is killed, he vows revenge. Part of that process involves going to a village to kidnap a girl whom he belives is allied with the VC. His intention is to use her as "mobile R & R". Eriksson is horrified by this, but is outvoted, and looks on in horror and disgust as his squad (which includes debuts from John C. Reilly and John Leguizamo) brutally treats, rapes, then kills the girl.

Despite risk of severe retaliation, and the indifference of his superiors (Ving Rhames and Dale Dye), Eriksson is determined to bring his fellow soldiers to justice.

It seems inevitable that most if not all of the New Hollywood directors have made a war film, specifically one concerning Vietnam. This is Brian DePalma's entry in that category, and, it's quite good.

It lacks a lot of his overt cynicism and gimmickry, focusing instead on heavy themes and character. Don't get me wrong, there's some great camera work, a wonderful look, and a strong score from Ennio Morricone, but this is mostly a showcase from DePalma playing it straight. There's nothing wrong with that either, because it's a pretty solid film.

Yes, the film does get a little too sappy and sentimental towards the end, maybe a bit too feel good, bt it's mostly earned. Also, Fox is quite compelling and convincing, but I think he was perhaps too pure of a character. He's still good though, and really sympathetic. As good as he is though, he of course gets overshadowed by Sean Penn. Penn, as expected is fiercely intense, unhinged, and memorable. The aforementioned supporters are all pretty decent, too, giving hints of greater things to come.

All in all, this is a really good film, and you should check it out. Yeah, it is flawed, but even then it's still pretty worthwhile.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


Imagine A Clockwork Orange in vietnam, a shocking and tense war film. The most serious picture with Michael J. Fox. Casualties of War is also one of the best DePalma's moments.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

Based on an actual incident during the Vietnam War, Casualties Of War is the shocking true story of four men who raped and murdered a Vietnamese girl. The film stars Michael J. Fox as Pfc Eriksson, the new recruit in Vietnam who witnesses the crime. Sean Penn stars as Sgt Meserve, the antagonist of the film and he gives one brutal performance here, I thought it was very chilling. Eriksson seeks to report the matter to his superiors, but none seem to care. Meanwhile Meserve orders one of the men who participated in the rape to kill Eriksson, but he escapes. Eriksson soon talks about the incident to a superior who is also a priest. The military takes action against the men, and they get a harsh sentence. This is a film that came out during the height of the Vietnam war film craze of the late 80's, but it seems to be forgotten. Casualties Of War is a good film, but it's definitely one of the weaker Vietnam War films to come out in this period. The film is no Platoon or Full Metal Jacket. The film started off very promising, but it kind of ended flat. The film feels almost unfinished and I think the ending could have been better, sure the criminals get punished, but the filmmakers could have done something a bit more solid than the ending on the bus. However the film aside from the ending has a two things going for it, Ennio Morricone's solid score and Brian Depalma's near flawless directing. Casualties Of War is a good war drama, but its the best out there, at times the script feels strained and it seems that they tried to make nearly every seen very overly sentimental, more than they needed to be. But this is still a film worth watch, hard to watch, but good nonetheless. The biggest problem with the film is that it tries too hard to imitating the Vietnam War film greats by overdoing the drama. A good film, but not one of the best Vietnam War films.

Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

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