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Casualties of War (1989)

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

Director:

Brian De Palma (as Brian DePalma)

Writers:

Daniel Lang (book), David Rabe (screenplay)
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Popularity
3,134 ( 2,785)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael J. Fox ... Eriksson
Sean Penn ... Sgt. Tony Meserve
Don Harvey ... Cpl. Thomas E. Clark
John C. Reilly ... PFC Herbert Hatcher
John Leguizamo ... PFC Antonio Diaz
Thuy Thu Le ... Oanh
Erik King ... Brown
Jack Gwaltney ... Rowan
Ving Rhames ... Lt. Reilly
Dan Martin ... Sgt. Hawthorne
Dale Dye ... Capt. Hill
Steve Larson ... Agent #1
John Linton John Linton ... Agent #2
Vyto Ruginis ... Prosecutor
Al Shannon Al Shannon ... Wilkins
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Storyline

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 <cst@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Even in war... murder is murder. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | War

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Vietnamese

Release Date:

18 August 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pecados de guerra See more »

Filming Locations:

San Francisco, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$22,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,201,261, 20 August 1989, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$18,671,317
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (Extended Cut)

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Goofs

Meserve's arm position changes when confronting the MP who will not let the group go into town. See more »

Quotes

Eriksson: Give me a minute on this thing we're doing. I mean, what we're doing. What are we doing, sarge?
Meserve: We have a VC suspect. Is that what you mean? She's a VC whore and we're gonna have fun with her.
Eriksson: She's just a farm girl.
Meserve: You're the cherry here, right? So lighten up.
Clark: -Let me carry the weight. -What's the problem, sarge?
Meserve: He don't think our VC whore is a VC whore.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Scene by Scene: Brian De Palma (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Hold On I'm Coming
Written by David Porter & Isaac Hayes
Performed by Sam & Dave
Courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp.
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Compelling Pivotal Subject Matter Out of Context In De Palma's Context
5 July 2009 | by jzappaSee all my reviews

I want to say Scarface, The Untouchables and Casualties of War are Brian De Palma's best films, because they are his most serious in subject matter. But the truth is that his best work is in films like Sisters, Snake Eyes, Femme Fatale, The Black Dahlia. It is one thing to make a hyperstylized erotic thriller, because there doesn't have to be anything sincere about the film. But he brings the same sort of stiffly disassociated acting, point-of-view-shot set pieces, stock characters and melodramatically contrived dialogue to the story of a platoon in the Vietnam War and the rape to which they subjected a village girl. The movie's structure is not so much about the act as about the climate building to it, the dehumanizing authenticity of battle, the way it advocates brute force and rejects those who would try to live by a superior gauge.

The pivotal sequence of the kidnapping, the march, captivity and gang rape of the girl is excruciating because it makes it so distinct how ineffectual Michael J. Fox's character's ethical fundamentals are in the face of a weapon cask. The other men either never had any issues about what they are doing, or have lost them in the bastardizing course of combat. They will do just what they want to do, and Fox is basically impotent to stop them. Based on actual events, this film makes it apparent that when a group histrionic of this kind is astir, there maybe is veritably nothing that a "good" person can do to save the day. And its analysis of the actualities of the scenario is what's best about the movie.

What is not so good are the scenes before and after the compelling pivotal subject. The movie begins and ends some time after the war, with Fox on a subway, where he sees an Asian woman who reminds him of the victim. The dialogue he has with this woman in the movie's last scene is so bound and stilted and tries so hard to manufacture a buoyant denouement into a grim movie, that it's as if it belongs in another movie.

Defiant encounters with two commanding officers, Dale Dye (what a shock...) and Ving Rhames, are persuasive, but then the result appears half-baked and almost annexed. More than most films, mostly on account of the vital element of peer pressure, it relies on the potency of its performances for its impact, particularly on Penn's performance, but no one is a real character; everyone is an over-the-top caricature. Penn, with unmistakable conviction and enthusiasm in spite of the cartoonishness, is the bombastic leader of the bullies; John C. Reilly makes his movie debut here as the eager, dim-witted follower; Don Harvey is the sadistic right-hand enforcer for Penn; John Leguizamo is the quiet, sheepish guy who's not as bad but has no backbone. Although Penn's self-dramatizing comes from his deep sense of integrity to the frugal standards of De Palma's style, it seems that Fox is the only player whose capacity to turn ideas into realities and translate experience into words is not affected by the affectedness. Perhaps he's perfect for a De Palma leading man, as he does away with the frivolous.

Objectivity is not De Palma's strong suit, which I don't necessarily see as a flaw: Who's truly objective, really? But maybe the movie would have been more impactful if it had just preserved the account as realistically as possible, devoid of De Palma's idiosyncratic artifice, his perfectionism too private and defensively preoccupied. That much would have included everything necessary that the movie has to show us.


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