Casualties of War Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 11, 2011
DePalma's epic war film explores the dark sides of men in combat and features many outstanding performances.
cosmo313
Super Reviewer
August 21, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
½ March 19, 2012
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.
TheDudeLebowski65
Super Reviewer
December 11, 2010
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.
movieguru12
Super Reviewer
November 20, 2010
The story of an actual incident that happened in Vietnam on October 18, 1969 of four soldiers who raped & murdered an innocent Vietnamese girl & how one soldier, Eriksson (played very well by Michael J. Fox) didn't participate & rightfully turned in the responsible. Very good movie replication of this event in accurate detail. This movie is not for those with a weak stomach, so if rape & murder bother you don't watch this but if it doesn't watch to see this bad stuff over in third world countries that is still going on in our world today. Excellent acting by Michael J. Fox in his role as a serious soldier.
Super Reviewer
March 30, 2010
I think that itā??s probably the worst war movie that came from the Movie Brats, but itā??s not a bad film by any stretch. The poor acting from Michael J. Fox really brings the feel of the movie down, as well as the cheesy dialogue. I think Sean Penn was phenomenal and perhaps the greatest element of the film, he brings psychopath to an entirely new level. What I liked most was the overall message about war and soldiers in general. I think that Brian De Palma really didnā??t have much to work with, but still managed to make an above average war film.
flixsterman
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2009
Stunning performances from Sean Penn (as expected) and Michael J. Fox (completely unexpected). An underrated and disturbing Vietnam war film based on actual events.
Super Reviewer
½ September 24, 2009
An underrated war film with an impressive cast.
garyX
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2007
When a group of soldiers in Vietnam on long patrol kidnap, rape and murder a village girl, new recruit Michael J. Fox finds no-one will listen when he tries to report the crime to his superiors. Casualties Of War is a shocking story that is based on true events and Fox's attempt to become a "serious" actor. It is well meaning, and Thuy Thu Le puts in a heart breaking performance as the victim but the film as a whole does not quite work. De Palma does not have the subtlety or sensitivity to do the material justice and although Fox tries his best, he does not have the dramatic range to convince in the main role. The other characters are pretty much all very familiar stereotypical grunts and the dialogue feels forced and unnatural. The contrived and cornball ending certainly doesn't help either. It's a nice try at representing a situation where all sense of right and wrong seems at odds with an everyday reality that consists of murder and death but I feel it would have been better served in different hands and it lacks the necessary intensity of some of the better Vietnam war based films.
Super Reviewer
July 12, 2007
A touching Vietnam movie. Big in scope and range, thanks to De Palma's bold cinematic tricks, Stephen Burum's cinematography and Ennio Morricone's score, which, as a matter of fact, is not one of his best, but it works.
I don't agree with people that say Michael J. Fox was miscast, I think his childish 'eternally young' looks served him in this contained, human, agonizing performance; and
Sean Penn was as amazing as he always is when he plays profoundly immoral characters.
Super Reviewer
May 6, 2007
Hard-hitting war flick telling the story of a group of soldiers who kidnap and rape a Vietnamese girl. Too slow at times for me.
Super Reviewer
½ July 6, 2007
Good movie for 1989. I think they did a good job at showing that not everyones worth praise, and that Americans, as great as our country is, can do wrong. I think the movie had balls, to put it out.
Super Reviewer
½ March 4, 2007
Overlooked war film. Powerful performances by Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn.
deano
Super Reviewer
December 6, 2006
Director Brian De Palma's full-blown portrayal of the horrors of war is terrifying and audacious.
Super Reviewer
March 15, 2006
Alex P. Keaton finally goes off to war to where he realizes that raping helpless woman isnt all that great.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
July 1, 2014
Well, it would appear as though Marty McFly got lost on his way back to the future. I put it like that because it's a little hard to take Michael J. Fox... and John C. Reilly, and John Leguizamo all that seriously as soldiers (This is kind of a wimpy outfit), although, if anyone kind of defuses the tension in the floating heads poster, it's Sean Penn, with his big mouth and what have you. Mind you, I'm not going to tell him that, not just because he is definitely a commanding force in this film itself, but because I'm scared of him in real life, when he isn't armed with a certain little friend. ...Gay as that sounded, I put it like that because this film is directed by Brian De Palma, which, of course, means that this film ought to be edgier than you'd think it is when you see Michael J. Fox. I joke, but in the poster in question, Fox looks a smidge like Tom Cruise, which I figured would be an "impossible mission". Man, with all of these awful puns, I seem to be about lame enough to be in the platoon portrayed in this film. I think I'll just stick with watching this all from the side, largely because when I'm not being shot at and have to rely on Mike Fox, John Reilly and John Leguizamo to help me (I doubt Penn will help me after I made fun of his face in the poster), this makes for a pretty good film, for all its issues, that is.

Being that this film is not much of anything if not a little excessive, even the potentially tight runtime of about two hours goes abused, sometimes with simple filler, and often with so much fat around the edges of material that the narrative ends up sticking with each segment for way too long, to the point of wearing you down enough to spot where the originality lapses. On paper, this harsh Vietnam drama has a certain freshness to its interpretation of horrors found in a dehumanizing place of conflict, but in execution, all but all of that originality is betrayed, whether it be because of character types, or because of formulaic set pieces, or because of near-trite dialogue (So, just how many Vietnam soldiers in real life blurted out, "Get some!", over and over again when they manned a gun turret?) that is aggravating enough because of its griminess. As I said, excess is found throughout this gritty affair, and not just within plot structuring, because whether it be through overt obscenities or through even some overtly disturbing visuals and material, this film tends to beat you over the head with grime, as surely as it tends to beat you over the head with dramatics, with sentimentality and other glaring lapses in subtlety. With all my talk of this film's being rather derivative, it is a whole lot like Oliver Stone's "Platoon", in that it is so compelling, yet it would be more so if it didn't get either a little too grimy, or a little histrionic, or all around overbearing at times with its handling of powerful subject matter, limiting dramatic sophistication by limiting subtlety, even with its characterization. In concept, this film is defined by its humanity, thus, in execution, a lot of hard work is put into bringing this character drama's depths to life, and when that hard work doesn't pay off, believe it or not, it really misfires, offering little immediate development right away, before reaching a body that overdevelops the characters, as types with few layers that the performers work with as best they can, but not well enough to compensate for thin characterization. This lack of subtlety, even in exposition, reflects a sloppiness that really shouldn't be in a film this valuable in concept, and generally inspired in execution, for if there was more grace and tightness, then the final product could have gone far. As things stand, however, what the film slips up on its more than makes up for with what it does so well, even in, of all things, artistry.

Composed by the great Ennio Morricone, this film's score, while thematically unique for Morricone, is a bit formulaic, and sometimes tonally abrasive, but on the whole, it's predictably outstanding, combining that trademark Vietnam War film fusion of mild psychedelia and great intensity with Morricone's own trademark Italian whimsy, in the vein of "Once Upon a Time in America", in a manner that is aesthetically solid, not unlike cinematography by Stephen H. Burum that may a little too subdued in a lot of ways, but offers just enough grit to be rugged and sell a lot of the grit of this drama. Both the visual style and the visuals the style falls over help bring life to the immersion value of this grimy war portrait, as art director Bernard Hides nails the setting of wartime Vietnam to the point of drawing you in, particularly with further technical proficiency kicks in during intensely well-staged and tight, if a tad noisy action sequences. If Brian De Palma delivers on nothing else, it's style and action, but really, style is still underplayed, and action is limited, thus, De Palma has to primarily focus on his dramatic abilities, and when it comes to that, he slips up more than he probably should with his overt disturbances, sentimentality and other abrasive touches, yet once he gets a grip on his dramatic vision, the film all but shines with its tension, resonance and, for that matter, entertainment value. Although it is done an almost great injustice at time, this film's subject matter is handled well enough to never feel as thin as its execution, which is good, considering the thematic and dramatic value of this potentially unique portrait on the loss of innocence, humanity and overall decency in the midst of war, in full, horrifying form, done a rewarding amount of service by both De Palma and David Rabe. Rabes' script is a mess of pacing and subtlety issues, and even characterization thinness, but it is just comfortable enough with its depths to provide plenty of dramatic potential to be brought to life by De Palma, as well as the most consistent strength: the acting. Well, some of the performances take some getting used to, as the material is so abrasive, when not thin with characterization, but the portrayals do best what the writing and direction slip up at doing at times: keeping this drama's human heart pumping, with Sean Penn being particularly chilling in his hardcore portrayal of profoundly disturbed man who feels an evil environment justifies evil doings, while Michael J. Fox proves to be truly revelatory in his convincing, subtly layered portrayal of a young solider whose interpretation of justice is clouded by certain peers' vile ways, and by how other peers interpret this villainy. These performances really define what could have been done to make this drama outstanding, but where the final product could have fallen as an underwhelmingly misguided take on worthy subject matter, there is enough inspiration to drive the effort as, at the very least, rewarding.

Overall, there are some unnecessary conventions, and even less necessary excesses, in pacing, obscenities and sentimentality, which join somewhat thin characterization in establishing some glaring subtlety issues which threaten the final product's reward value, ultimately secured by the beautiful score work, handsome cinematography, generally effective direction and scripting, and powerful performances - especially those by Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox - which do enough justice to the valuable themes of "Casualties of War" to craft an ultimately rewarding portrait on the horrors of dehumanization during wartime.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2012
Its one of the few truly anti-war films. DePalma's direction and Rabe's screenplay are both equally furious at the environment that allowed these types of awful things to occur.
Naughtia
Super Reviewer
May 15, 2010
This movie is about a group of American soldiers involved in the Vietnam War. During this war a young girl gets taken from her village by 5 American soldiers,she ends up getting raped and killed. One of the soldiers (Michael J. Fox) is disgusted by these doings and wants justice to be done. This is a fantasic war movie which affects you in a very powerful way. This movie is based on a true story and that makes the story even scarier.
DrStrangeblog
Super Reviewer
October 11, 2010
MJF in a rare dramatic role is about the only good reason to check this out.
Super Reviewer
½ August 16, 2006
Decent war film plays mostly as a morality tale. Good performances and score to boot.
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