Casualties of War (1989)

R  |   |  Drama, History, War  |  18 August 1989 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 31,593 users  
Reviews: 125 user | 67 critic

During the Vietnam War, a soldier finds himself the outsider of his own squad when they unnecessarily kidnap a female villager.


(as Brian DePalma)


(book), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Thuy Thu Le ...
Lt. Reilly
Capt. Hill
Agent #1
John Linton ...
Agent #2
Al Shannon ...


During the Vietnam war, a girl is taken from her village by five American soldiers. Four of the soldiers rape her, but the fifth refuses. The young girl is killed. The fifth soldier is determined that justice will be done. The film is more about the realities of war, rather than this single event. Written by Colin Tinto <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Inspired by a true event, that the army never saw it coming See more »


Drama | History | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

18 August 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pecados de guerra  »

Box Office


$22,500,000 (estimated)


$18,671,317 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Extended Cut)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to John Leguizamo in his autobiography, the scene in which Meserve smacks Diaz took 14 takes and Sean Penn really smacked him every time. See more »


At the beginning and end of the movie Eriksson is riding the Muni Metro subway system in San Francisco which first opened in 1980, however another rider is prominently shown reading a newspaper with a headline about Nixon's resignation, implying the scenes take place some time around August 1974. See more »


Meserve: This is a weapon, this is a gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.
See more »


References M*A*S*H: Abyssinia, Henry (1975) See more »


Everybody Loves Somebody
Written by Irving Taylor & Ken Lane
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The Highest Duty Towering Above All Others
22 July 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

"Like it doesn't matter what we do, maybe its the other way around, maybe because any of us might be blown away at any moment, maybe it matters more, maybe it matters more than we even know." Want to see in the movie in one scene? Where the Chaplin, in the bar, asks Fox why he is upset. Listen to his voice, when he comes to the last two words,"Stop Them," listen to the ineffable anguish in his voice. See, he will always be on that bridge looking at her body covered in blood. That is what the ending means, her surrogate tells him the nightmare is over, he did his duty before God, he can leave the bridge now. The film appears to be about Vietnam but not really. All of DePalma's movies are about morality and the costs of doing the right thing. Remember Rick in Snake Eyes staring at the money on the carpet soaked in blood seeing it for the first time morally. Rick says,"I never killed anybody," Kevin answers,"Don't worry, you just point her out to me. I'll take care of it." The movie is Fox believing the captain yet risking his family and himself for that little girl dead on the ground. We hear Ving Rhames tell him; that's the way things are don't buck the system.

See, Diaz had the convictions but not the moral courage. Fox knew the minute Meserve made that little speech about who is or is not VC and "I don't know about you?" that his life may be lost trying to protect her. They almost kill him when he refuses to rape her; it comes very close. After he goes to Meserve's superiors, Clark almost kills him with a grenade in the latrine. The next scene is priceless: See the strength to risk death and do good, that same strength can be used for evil with equal facility. Watch after he bashes Clark in the face, see the fear, for the first time in the entire movie, in Merserve's face. He is seeing Ericson for the very first time. They thought he refused because he was too weak, their miscalculation almost costs them everything. DePalma, despite all the blood and nudity, is a deeply moral filmmaker. Remember Blow Out, the Black Angel Of Death towering over Nancy Allen in the train station? Same thing, she caused the death of another and the destroyer is coming for her. He really is identical to his master Alfred Hitchcock.

The movie is a morality play; the Vietnam war is but the substratum the movie plays upon. DePalma really is not insulting our veterans by implying this was anything but an isolated anomaly by a grief stricken sergeant who just lost his best buddy right before he snapped and did this. In Snake Eyes, Rick's life is destroyed and he is publicly humiliated; he loses everything by protecting that girl. It is the very same here, look at the cost Fox paid; he expected to lose his family as well. DePalma's point is a most timely one within this zeitgeist, doing good always comes with a heavy price; that is why so few people perform it. See, sending waves of positive energy or thinking only good thoughts is a hollow facsimile of real good. Fox does real good and he almost pays with his life. He was right; it does matter more than we will ever know. The highest duty that towers over all others is to God. DePalma is speaking through Ericsson to us; believe it or not, we may have to answer for the evil that we do. I am not a Christian but a Theistic Existentialist but the movie's moral power is overwhelming even to non Christians. A painful movie to watch like The Mission; It will transform you, make yourself watch it. Even if it had cost him everything, it still was the right choice.

"Whatsoever You Do To The Least Of These, You Do To Me." Christ

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