'Casualties Of War'' is a 1989 Vietnam War
film directed by Brian De Palma
and starring Michael J. Fox
, Sean Penn
, John C Reilly
, John Leguizamo
, Don Harvey and Thuy Thu Le (in her first and only role). It was based on the actual incident on Hill 192.
In 1966 in Vietnam, a squad of five American soldiers, lead by Sgt. Tony Meserve (Sean Penn), kidnap a young Vietnamese woman named Oanh (Thuy Thu Le) from her village and take her on a patrol, making her their sex slave. Of the five men, only one - Pvt. Max Eriksson (Michael J Fox) - refuses to take part in Oanh's rape and torture, and is determined to bring his fellow soldiers to justice, no matter what the cost.
The film underperformed at the box office, but was praised for its strong direction, acting and score
, as well as its unflinching depiction of its highly brutal and disturbing subject matter. It's also notable for being the film debut of John C. Reilly, and for featuring John Leguizamo in a very early role (his second film, and his first major role).
In 2006, an Extended Cut was released, including two scenes near the end featuring Eriksson in court.
This film contains examples of:
- Big Bad: Meserve is the closest the film has to one.
- Bittersweet Ending: Eriksson succeeds in exposing Meserve, Clark, Hatcher and Diaz, and finds peace after a chance encounter with a girl who strongly resembles Oanh (played by the same actress, at that). However, that doesn't change that Oanh was brutally murdered. And looking up the real story reveals that the soldiers responsible for the crime ultimately got off rather lightly.
- California Doubling: Thailand for Vietnam.
- Evil Is Hammy: Meserve.
- New Meat: Eriksson begins the film as a rookie, but in around three weaks, he treats another rookie like this.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: The whole film revolves around the kidnap and repeated rape of an innocent Vietnamese girl by a squad of American soldiers.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Subverted, very few people in the local American command hierarchy seem to care and all about the crime even when Erisson reports it and it is at first swept under the rug. Erikson, after the attempt on his life is even prompted to tell Meserve "I told 'em, oh yeah, I told 'em, AND THEY DON'T CARE!"
- Scenery Porn: Thailand, standing in for Vietnam, is beautifully shot.
- Silent Whisper: Near the end of the film, after being court martialed, Meserve stops by Eriksson before leaving the room and whispers something into his ear. We don't hear it, but it was undoubtedly a threat.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Brownie is killed very early on, but the anguish and stress caused in no small part by his death strongly affects the behavior of some of his friends later in the film.
- Sociopathic Soldier: Meserve and Clark in particular.
- Unfriendly Fire: To keep Eriksson from exposing them, the rest of his squad stick a grenade in the latrine he is about to use, but he narrowly manages to escape.
- War Is Hell: And it can twist decent men into monsters.