*****Contains plot spoilers*****
Despite the fact that it feels (to me at least) like a TV series with some episodes missed out, this is a big-budget, star-studded film set during the Vietnam war. Strangely overlooked, alongside the better-known epics such as `Platoon', and `Hamburger Hill', this 1989 film was directed by Brian de Palma, well-known director of `Scarface', and `The Untouchables'. It deals with a real-life incident, when a small patrol is sent out on a mission to locate the Vietcong. The tough platoon leader, a suitably hard-nosed Sean Penn, decides that they will take a girl along, to provide sexual favours, and promptly kidnaps an innocent young woman from a nearby village. The rest of the squad (John Leguziamo, John C. Reilly, and others) are happy to go along with this plan, and all participate in the unpleasant, graphic gang-rape of the unfortunate girl. However, one member of the squad, played by Michael J.Fox, refuses to join in, and tries to help the girl, as best as he is able. When they later stumble across a large Vietcong unit, and are forced into combat, the leader fears discovery, and orders the men to kill the girl.
Returning to camp, Fox's character fears his life may be in danger, and an attempt to blow him up forces his hand. He reports the crime, and despite resistance from his superiors, eventually gets a Court Martial for those concerned. There are also good cameos from Ving Rhames, and the excellent Dale Dye, as officers who want no part of the proceedings; and a heart-rending performance from Thuy Thu Le, as the unfortunate hostage. There are obvious issues about men disturbed by war, casual killing, and living a life with no rules. The film attempts to show that life always has a way of catching up, and justice eventually prevails.
If only that was true.