Casualties of War (1989)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Casualties of War takes a harrowing plunge into the Vietnam War with a well-acted ensemble piece that ranks among director Brian De Palma's more mature efforts.

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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), who is repeatedly tied, gagged and gang-raped. The horrified Eriksson refuses to participate in these atrocities, and he does his best to console the girl and to attempt to free her. Before this can happen, however, Meserve orders another man to kill the girl. Once he returns to camp, Eriksson attempts to file a report on the tragedy and to bring Meserve and the others to justice, but he is stonewalled by the brass and threatened with death by his fellow soldiers. Eventually Meserve and his co-conspirators are jailed for their crimes, but Eriksson can never forget his "compliance" in the incident by failing to save the girl. The script is by well-known playwright David Rabe.
Rating:
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre:
Action & Adventure , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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Cast

Sean Penn
as Sgt. Tony Meserve
John C. Reilly
as PFC Herbert Hatcher
Michael J. Fox
as Eriksson
Sam Robards
as Chaplain Kirk
Ving Rhames
as Lt. Reilly
Donal Gibson
as Soldier
Vyto Ruginis
as Prosecutor
Don Harvey
as Cpl. Thomas E. Clark
Holt McCallany
as Lt. Kramer
Sherman Howard
as Court Martial President
Niran Sattar
as VC in Tunnel
Dale Dye
as Capt. Hill
Dan Martin
as Hawthorne
Wendell Pierce
as MacIntire
Al Shannon
as Wilkins
Erik King
as Brown
John Linton
as Agent #2
Phi Beta Sigma
as Village Woman
Kady Tran
as Yen, Oahn's Sister
Steve Larson
as Agent #1
Ba Thuan T. Le
as Oahn's Mother
Ennalls Berl
as Soldier Charlie #2
J.J.
as M.P.
Marius Valainis
as Streibig
J. Chalerm
as Old Man Farmer
Scott Gregory
as Soldier Charlie #1
Hataya Sarmount
as Girl Villager
Shane Kerwin
as Soldier
Kwan
as Child Villager
Nootch
as Child Villager
Po Powpi
as Old Man Villager
Shaun Shea
as Soldier
Somsak
as ARVN Interpreter
Vinh Tran
as VC Interpreter
Maris Valainis
as Streibig
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News & Interviews for Casualties of War

Critic Reviews for Casualties of War

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (8)

There's a moral charge to the action, but it's also swooningly exciting, coldly scary. Every friend may be an enemy, every innocent a traitor.

Full Review… | March 16, 2015
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

A powerful metaphor of the national shame that was America's orgy of destruction in Vietnam, Brian De Palma's film deals directly with the harrowing rape and murder of a Vietnamese woman by four GIs.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Variety
Top Critic

Casualties of War is dull.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Mr. Penn plays Meserve with terrific elan. There is plausibility in every movement and gesture, and especially in his crafty handsomeness. His Meserve is the sort of man one credits with thoughts when the mind may, in fact, be completely blank.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Another Brian De Palma movie, another bludgeoning. Or stabbing. Or body-drilling. Whatever -- as long as the victim's a woman.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

It is a breakthrough work, a signal of an artist's blossoming maturity, and one of the most punishing, morally complex movies about men at war ever made.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Casualties of War

½

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. ed 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
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

½

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

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