Jenny Nix, wife of eminent child psychologist Carter Nix, becomes increasingly concerned about her husband's seemingly obsessive concern over the upbringing of their daughter. Her own ... See full summary »
Brian De Palma
Keith Gordon is a creative young man who films the oddball doings of his family and peers. "The Maestro" appears frequently to give him pointers on his techniques. It's almost a film about ... See full summary »
Filmed stageplay based on the ancient greek play The Bacchae written by Euripides. This play is performed by members of The Performance Group, an NYC experimental theater group who has made... See full summary »
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Released exactly one day after Robert De Niro and Sean Penn's birthday. See more »
Meserve's arm position changes when confronting the MP who will not let the group go into town. See more »
Oh, you wanna take an attack posture wit' me? Yeah, you got a weapon. Clark got a weapon, Clark got a knife! We all got weapons! Anybody can blow anybody away, any second. Which is the way it ought to be. Always.
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Casualties of War is one of the most powerful anti-war movies. Note that I didn't mention Vietnam in that sentence, but just anti-war, period. Around the time of the mid to late 1980s many Vietnam war movies were flying out, The Killing Fields, Platoon, and best of them (not counting Apocalypse Now from the 70s) was Full Metal Jacket. What a lot of these movies have in common though is that they're not simply about Vietnam, but about the war experience. Of course sometimes the context of the times has to be taken in, such as it being the 'baby-boomer' generation where drugs and rock and roll were apart of the down-time. That and getting some Vietnam women for sex on the side. The themes are meant to be universal, or at least capture the nature of a platoon mind-set, of what it's like to be a soldier.
Brian De Palma's film is set in Vietnam, like those films, but it could take place during any war. It peels an uncomfortable layer of the soldier's experience that does need to be told - it's not pretty, it's not sentimental, it is what it is. Some soldiers during wars, not just Vietnam but others, take out casualties that are not really the enemies. And for De Palma the brutal rape and murder of a girl, an innocent one, was just such a horrible story that needed to be told. His film is full of heartfelt emotion, but it doesn't show on the actor's faces, save for Michael J. Fox. It's about an ugly subject, and so the actors (Sean Penn, John C. Reilly, John Leguizamo) play precisely unsympathetic characters, to one degree or another. They don't start out that way though, and that makes it too complex to ignore as a polemic.
It's about a squad, led by Penn's Sergeant, who decides to take a leave for a short while of the usual soldier duties to take a girl into the jungle and rape and murder her. Fox's PFC thinks he's kidding, but boy he isn't. They drag her miles and miles, and it becomes a morality play. Again, this is complicated: earlier in the film we saw two crucial things, that Penn's character saved Fox from death by the enemy in a tight spot, and that one of the squad's best people gets killed quite suddenly as everyone's just standing around talking (this is, truly, a shocking moment to have in any film from it coming at a mundane moment). He doesn't start off rotten, Penn's Sergeant, nor even the other guys like Don Harvey's Chuck, but as they get closer to the inevitable situation "out there" as they say, it takes on a ghastly inhumanity, and the kind of peer pressure that one might see in a DARE drug video, only here there's no messing around. Especially in the aftermath, with a "don't care" policy the army takes, for at least a little while.
Casualties of War is skillfully directed and unflinching in its emotional reach. When we see Fox, in some desperation of not being able to save the Vietnamese girl from the rape, try to help her and, subsequently, fail to escape, it's really shocking. Not because of what doesn't happen, per-say, but that after all of these scenes of the troop in this group-think, and the torture of this woman, there's humanity again, or something close to it (it was hard for me not to tear up a little when he finally communicated with her, "Mama-san"). But, interestingly, De Palma and his actors don't need to do all of the heavy lifting in the dramatic department. Ennio Morricone comes on in many scenes with a musical score that, in a way, confronts the audience. Do we dare not be moved when the music swells? Is it manipulative? Possibly. But it takes a master like Morricone to do it so well in this context - only Days of Heaven can come close or top it to its haunting elegy of the heart.
This is an important film to look at, and it hasn't dated. Not to mention a fantastic performance from Michael J. Fox, whose subtlety in many scenes, his restraint, his character's face just pained in looking on at the horror of the situation unfolding, is just as great, if not more convincing, than Penn's surly hero-cum-villain. Another war is hell movie? Sure, but directed and acted with a modicum of believability and humanity.
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