Casualties of War

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"Even in war… murder is murder."
  • R
  • 1989
  • 1 hr 54 min
  • 7.1  (47,268)
  • 75

Casualties of War is a 1989 war drama film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn, and Don Harvey. The movie is based on a real-life incident that occurred during the Vietnam War, in which a squad of American soldiers abducted, raped, and murdered a Vietnamese girl. The story is told through the eyes of a young American soldier, Private First Class Max Eriksson (Fox), who is horrified by the actions of his fellow soldiers and tries to stop them.

The movie opens in 1966, with the 25th Infantry Division of the US Army sent to Vietnam to fight against the Viet Cong. Max is part of a platoon led by Sergeant Tony Meserve (Penn), a tough and experienced soldier who is determined to win the war at any cost. Meserve and his men are on a reconnaissance mission when they come across a small village and decide to kidnap a young Vietnamese girl, Oanh (Thuy Thu Le), to use as a sex slave.

Max is initially hesitant about the plan but is pressured by Meserve and the others to join in. They take Oanh to their base camp and begin to rape her. Max refuses to participate and tries to stop them, but he is overpowered and threatened with violence if he does not comply. As the days go by, Max is wracked with guilt and despair as he witnesses the continued abuse of Oanh.

Max finally tries to report the incident to his superiors but is met with resistance and skepticism. The Army does not want to admit to any wrongdoing and is more concerned about avoiding negative publicity than punishing the perpetrators. Max becomes increasingly isolated and conflicted as he grapples with his conscience and tries to find a way to save Oanh from her torment.

The movie is a powerful and visceral depiction of the horrors of war and the moral dilemmas faced by soldiers caught up in a brutal conflict. De Palma's direction is masterful, creating a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere that reflects the emotional turmoil of the characters. The cast is excellent, with Michael J. Fox delivering a sensitive and nuanced performance as the conflicted Max, while Sean Penn is chillingly effective as the brutal Meserve.

One of the themes of the movie is the dehumanizing effect of war on soldiers and the way it can make them see enemy civilians as mere objects to be used for their own pleasure or convenience. The movie also explores the dynamics of group psychology and how the pressure to conform can override individual conscience and morality.

Despite its harrowing subject matter, Casualties of War is ultimately a hopeful movie, showing that even in the darkest of circumstances, there are still those who will fight for what is right and just. The movie is a testament to the courage and resilience of the human spirit, and a reminder of the terrible toll that war takes on all those caught up in its web.

Casualties of War is a 1989 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 54 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.1 and a MetaScore of 75.

Casualties of War
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 54 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.1  (47,268)
  • Metascore