More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.26%
Worth A Look48.84%
Average: 11.63%
Pretty Bad: 6.98%
Total Crap: 9.3%

2 reviews, 31 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Les Misérables (2019) by Jay Seaver

Gentlemen, The by Peter Sobczynski

Chiwawa by Jay Seaver

Joker by Rob Gonsalves

Dreamland (2019) by Jay Seaver

Hit-and-Run Squad by Jay Seaver

Shoot to Kill by Jack Sommersby

Day of the Jackal, The by Jack Sommersby

Weathering With You by Jay Seaver

Wonderland, The by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Casualties of War
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Brian McKay

"Dreary, Depressing, but Decent De Palma"
4 stars

Brian De Palma has had a rocky track record of bondafide hits and sure-fire misses. Although dubbed "The man most likely to rip off Hitchcock" in many critics' circles, based on his earlier thrillers, he takes a left turn into Oliver Stone territory with the Vietnam statement piece "Casualties of War".

Michael J. Fox is Eriksson, the FNG in the squad - a naive yet thoughtful young man who is about to get his eyes opened to the fact that war is hell. Sean Penn is Sargeant Meserve, a sadistic psychotic who has obviously been in the bush for too long. When Meserve and his squad are sent out on a routine recon mission, they make a brief stop in a local village first to kidnap a young Vietnamese woman, Oahn (Thuy Thu Le).

As they drag their captive with them through the jungle, with only Erikkson openly protesting but too afraid to do anything to stop it, the inevitable scenes of rape and torture ensue. Although other members of the squad (including John Leguizamo as "Diaz") have qualms, they all take their turn - all except Eriksson who is forced to stand guard outside and bear silent witness to the atrocity.

When the girl is murdered by the sqaud, again with Eriksson standing helplessly by, his conscious finally spurs him to take action through military legal channels, even though he realizes his teammates may frag him at any moment.

The film seems to have noble intentions, examinizing the dehumanizing effects of war and implying that the soldiers who commit the atrocities are as much a victim of that dehumanization as the girl who they victimize. It is also an intersting look at the extremes that group mentality can lead to. It's easy to criticize Eriksson as spineless, without the balls to back up his moral convictions and stop the rape by any means possible - until you actually put yourself in his shoes. However, the powerful central theme gets diluted by the ending, and while the scenes of Oahn being kidnapped, raped, and murdered are viscerally disturbing, as they should be, Oahn becomes just a nameless, faceless victim of the hell that is war, helping to forward the story but never having her character developed to the point where we feel the pain of her ordeal on a more personal level.

Drive-In Triple Feature Picks for Casualties of War:

If you'd like to O.D. on depressing flicks with a jungle setting, right before the "bathtub and razor-blades" party, check out these as well.

Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick's Vietnam masterpiece, which shows that boot camp is just as dehumanizing as the war itself -but in a funny way!

Salvador, Oliver Stone's depressathon about an american reporter (James Woods) who witnesses numerous atrocities in war-torn El Salvador. (I could have just as easily gone with Platoon, but that would have been too easy!)

If you're not contemplating suicide right afterward, you might want to end the night with the Kubrick movie, since it at least has some amusing moments and ends on a quasi-upbeat note (unless you hate the "Mickey Mouse" theme song, in which case this film will probably be the last nail in your coffin).

Fox turns in a surpisingly good straight performance, and this was a breath of fresh air after seeing him be the quirky hero of all those 80's comedies. However, Sean Penn steals Fox's thunder as the raving lunatic Meserve. The two deliver up some tense confrontations, including a classic scene involving a shovel to the head that is almost worth the price of a rental alone.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 09/01/02 05:28:46
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell unpleasant & preachy 1 stars
2/19/13 action movie fan much better than platoon and ryan, but not as thriilling as bridge at menagen ,o 3 stars
1/24/13 anonymous ¿Sean Penn Overreacted? Sean Penn has nothing overacted, re acts well 5 stars
5/28/09 bronson Where's the appreciation for ahe Vietnamese actress? 2 stars
5/14/08 gus mitchell More true movies like this please, the shitheads should have been killed painfully & slow 5 stars
3/16/08 Pamela White dark drama war at its worst 4 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White war at its worst 4 stars
4/17/07 mb Almost left the movie at the rape scene ... very dark 4 stars
1/14/06 ALDO well made movie .... 5 stars
6/14/05 Indrid Cold A forced attempt at recreating Platoon's impact, but all in all, not bad. 3 stars
8/25/04 K Man great music 5 stars
5/14/04 Kooler Bad soundtrack, & casting in Alex P. Keaton. But Penn is god. 4 stars
9/04/03 James H. Fox Depressing 4 stars
6/04/03 Picky critic One of the best Vietnam movies I've seen 5 stars
5/23/03 mr. Pink Hard-hitting and compelling drama. A movie that will leave you shocked and devastated. 5 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby Flawed but compelling. 4 stars
9/14/02 Tooltime Taylor Makes you glad you didn't go to Nam. Would've shot those fucks!! 5 stars
9/01/02 Charles Tatum Slow, dark, and preachy 2 stars
3/15/02 Butterbean The first half of this one was hard to watch, then the other half was crap. 3 stars
3/08/02 Mo Anand Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn were great, but not enough to save the movie 3 stars
1/02/02 Cory Gave a unique view of the war, not just another glorified, rambo, heroic film, war movie. 4 stars
9/18/01 Tommy Bhoy Brian De Palma's best film with solid central performances and a classic music score. 5 stars
9/17/01 Jamie Tells it how it was 4 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Over-acted, soulless, and mis-cast. Brian DePalma proves he's the master of ass. 2 stars
11/22/00 Bill Neal The worst movie of all time! This movie turned me sterile!Chance!!get em!! 1 stars
5/26/00 Matt Kelly Your review is way off. This is an excellent movie. It is not anti-war. Aussie's don't kno 5 stars
2/15/00 Hunley Handles the material with intelligence. Fox's mild persona is just right for the role. 4 stars
2/09/00 The Marsh Not a classic, but worth a mention in any top war films list, though. 3 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg WHAT? This film is obvious and Penn & Fox are the hammiest fuckers I've ever seen! 1 stars
5/07/99 little jerry The simple story really nails the"what should I do?"problem.Sappy ending but very good film 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  12-Aug-1989 (R)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006


  02-Feb-1990 (M)

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast