on 12 August 2012
Although the difference between the theatrical cut and the extended version is approximately 6 minutes worth of scenes, I must recommend getting the Extended Cut. The cross-examination of Michael J Fox's character and the skepticism and undercurrents of disgust which he is met with when the investigation into the atrocities is launched add so much to the film, further emphasizing that the codes of loyalty and camaraderie in place amongst the soldiers made exposing injustice an all the more difficult task.
The film is excellent. DePalma is more restrained in his tendencies to dazzle with technical prowess. There is, however, an operatic quality to the acting, more noticeable in some scenes; emotions run high, the music swells and the camera presents images (particularly on the bridge) that are painterly, masterful in how dramatic they are. These qualities contribute to the sense of what another reviewer termed as the "morality play" characteristics of the film. This film would be perfection for me if it weren't for a "big speech" convention near the end of the film, the type of speech that is too unambigious in stating the moral position of the film. It is the sort of moment that is easily parodied when looking at "oscar bait" movies made in the present era.
The Special Features on the Extended Cut are limited but satisfactory. There is a 15 minute featurette with Michael J Fox looking back on the making of the film. More interesting is the half hour 'Making Of' Documentary. The ammount of superfluous talking heads are kept to a minimum- DePalma speaks at length, and it is always interesting to hear him talk about the process. I only wish he would do Director's Commentary tracks for his films. What interests me about DePalma as a filmmaker is that he is unlikely to do 'puff pieces' to gleefully promote his work. He is up front about his political convictions, whether or not you agree with him, and also he is honest about problems he faces, often being the first person to bring up and address the criticisms directed at him. In both this and the "Dressed to Kill" Blu Ray he acknowledges that his films are criticized (misogyny being the most used term with regards to Dressed to Kill).
For purposes of comparison see Elia Kazan's "The Visitors", based on the same article and events as "Casualties of War". Though a much lesser film, DePalma's own "Redacted" does have it's merits, and is in some ways a Casualties of War for the found-footage, multimedia Internet generation.
on 13 September 2007
Sean Penn is the best that I have ever seen him in this film. This is a film about soldiers that have gone wild in Vietnam - a law unto themselves. Yet the motivations of the individual soldiers for doing what they do (in other words becoming a law unto themselves) are very different. Having said that the one thread that brings out, or acts as a catalyst in bringing out, the different manifestations of evil in these soldiers, I felt, was the dominant suffusion of evil emitting from Sean Penn's character. This suffusion of evil is almost spell-binding and all weaker mortals can do, it seems, is follow (or in the case of the viewer is watch). It is this evil that is so strongly influencing those around him that truly makes this film a true masterpiece. The others followed as right became wrong and wrong became right. And when I watched it I felt myself swept up and transported to the Vietnam War. It didn't feel like a 'plastic' war film it felt real, as I watched the drama unfold - because the characters were so real. I would love to say more about this great film - but if I did I would spoil the plot.... A++++
on 10 July 2013
This doesn't belong in the same category as other Vietnam War films in my opinion.This is a low-key War film,and isn't so much about the Vietnam War iself.It's a about the kidnap,rape,and murder of a girl at the hands of a group of US soldiers during the war.The incident actually happened but it could have happened during any war.It's about trying to do the right thing,even when you're caught up in chaos and destruction.
Brian De Palma's film-making is masterful here.Shot after shot,the cinematography is stunning throughout.And Michael J.Fox is superb,as the only soldier who tries to do the right thing,and not take part in the girl's suffering but ultimately still fails to save her.He goes from naïve,to disturbed,to demoralized,and haunted all in the same film.It really is a great performance by him.I've always found Sean Penn to be an overrated,scenery chewing actor but it kind of works here as the crazed Sergeant who is behind the kidnapping.
I thought the theatrical cut was a good film but slightly flawed,but now this extended cut resolves that in my opinion.This is the version to see.The theatrical cut failed to explain how the military found out about the girl's murder,despite Fox's superior officers not been interested in the incident.Now in this version,Fox is seen been interrogated by two agents (in another brilliantly filmed scene all in one tracking shot).Also originally,it just showed the four guilty officers been interrogated in court,but now we get to see Fox been cross-examined,and it gives the film so much more impact.
A truly thought-provoking,haunting film that you can't take your eyes off of because of the acting,and because of De Palma's film-making.Ennio Morricone's score is also hugely effective,and unforgettable.This is a masterpiece.
on 13 June 2009
This is a difficult movie to watch. There are disturbing scenes. I won't go into the plot because this is a review rather than a summary. What it made me think about was natural justice; the idea that a person, simply by being a person, irrespective of their nationality or religion or other circumstances, has certain inherent rights - including the right not to be brutally treated by another human being. The irony of the movie is that America, a country that has natural justice as the heart of its culture (the concept leads to democracy, the inherent right to choose who governs you - part of the whole right to life, liberty and happiness deal), in this movie is seen sending soldiers to a country, in this case Vietnam, as part of espousing that the western democratic way, natural justice, is better than communism but, in doing so, uses poorly educated soldiers and fails to control them so that they are allowed to betray the idea that they are meant to be fighting for and behave in a way totally contrary to the way that natural justice says people should act. The movie more or less asks the question, if we're going to behave in that way, and turn a blind eye when it happens, then what's the point? If we behave like that, do we have any right to call ourselves civilized and tell other countries that they should respect our morality and culture? It asks wouldn't it just be better if we stayed at home and sorted ourselves out before going around and telling other countries how to behave?
Disturbing stuff; a provocative morality play rather than a date movie.
on 3 September 2007
Casualties of war is a film that isnt really a war movie in the vein of saving private ryan or platoon,this is a moralistic look at the fact that even in war ,murder is still murder.When i say this isnt a war movie,i mean that battle scenes and loss of life and people dying in friends arms isnt really how this film flows,set in vietnam during the famous war,a squadroon of soldiers kidnap a young local woman and destroy her to pieces,michael j fox plays the soldier who doesnt like what he has seen and wont let it rest,morals and what would you do if? pour from this and i love it.
Brian de Palma does a fine job in his directing here,bringing the viewer into the small wars within war and how war can overtake the human in you and make one a savage.
The film flows like vintage wine,dont think i have had any vintage wine,but thats the expression that springs to mind,a real gem of a movie,certainly overlooked but brilliantly made,brilliantly acted and a masterpiece in my eyes,five stars are earnt here.
*****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.
on 29 December 2012
Have got to say this film has got to be one of my fave movies it may not be platoon or black hawk down. But that's a good thing not a bad thing.
Though platoon was powerful and loved by myself and same with black hawk down.
But this film focuses more on the people portrayed in the film. It evokes sadness as you follow the troubles of Private Eriksson; and the fact it's based on a true story makes it even more powerful. of course we're not quite sure how true it is as Hollywood does take literal liberties with stories.
the acting and directing in this film is first class.
Michael J Fox Plays Ericsson with such great morality and you can feel what he's going through his portrayal it doesn't feel forced;
Sean Penn Who plays Sergeant Meserve who at the start looks like your normal good soldier who cares for his fellow soldiers, but Sean Penn is amazing in this film; the story itself can be hard to watch. thankfully the start of the story is a bit slow. Not to say it drags but it does give you a bit of time to see the relationship of the characters and you get to see both sides of Merserve's character. I would highly recommend this film to anyone.
the De Palma as always directs this film with pure class.
i just wish they would release this film on Blu-ray would you believe Poison Ivy gets a blu ray release yet this film has yet to be released well in the UK anyway.
on 30 October 2006
This is a harrowing and thought-provoking Vietnam true-story about a US platoon that kidnap, rape and murder a young Vietnamese woman during a patrol, and how one member of the platoon who refuses to comply with his Platoon Sergeant's orders seeks justice against those other members of his platoon who were responsible. The film is gripping and an indictment not only of the men who carried out the atrocities but also of the US Army whose senior Officers tried to cover up the incident to avoid a political backlash.
One of the best of the anti-Vietnam war films, with a moving Ennio Morricone score.
on 12 May 2011
This film looks great and certainly should be seen, however be prepared, it is very grim, much more than your average anti-war movie. I feel Brian De Palma films work best when their just out of reality, a little quirky and crazy, over the top even(Body Double,Snake Eyes,Carrie),when he does a serious film, like this one and more recently 'Redacted', it doesn't quite work. The films trying too hard to put its message across. I still think its a good film that retells a truly nasty crime as well as the general horrors of war. I also feel the film is structured well especially the final half hour which almost makes me want to rate it higher. Theres a limited cast that includes Michael J.Fox and Sean Penn as the leads, but also features Ving Rhames and John C.Reily. The films score is by Ennio morricone and works o.k. but no where near as good as his score for De Palmas The Untouchables.
on 7 January 2015
Exceptional film about ethnic solidarity being more important than morality: This false loyalty leaves no one ethically untarnished.
Moral obligations are a mental trap when they clash with the ethics of institutionalised abuse and the attempts to conceal it.
War crimes show all too well what happens when the good allow evil. Wars without clear political goals inevitably descend into chaos and defeat: The Vietnamese girl repeatedly-raped here is thus also symbolic of the US despoiling of her country.
Michael J FOX’s all-too-obvious weakness as an actor play in his favor by highlighting his character’s moral weakness. Conversely, Sean PENN’s strength perfectly suits his depiction of a monster made worse by war’s inherent license-to-kill.