14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
One of the best Vietnam films...,
This review is from: Casualties Of War [DVD] (DVD)
Films like The Deer Hunter, Apoclaypse Now & Platoon are the most common examples of the classic Vietnam film- though many like Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, which I admire- though feel is merely complex design and the blackest comedy. Casualties of War came toward the end of the major decade cycle of 'Nam films- though the genre has been reactivated with films like the not bad/seen it before Tigerland and the hilarious, right-wing sub-Purple Hearts tosh of We Were Soldiers. Time again to look at De Palma's film..
Casualties of War is probably the closest American cinema will get to the obvious atrocities of My-Lai- an analogy is clear with the lenient sentences given to the offending soldiers here- who rather than be given the death sentence that such acts (rape/murder) denote- they get a few years in prison and are set free shortly after. The message is, the Geneva convention apart, that "foreigners" (in this case the Vietnamese, but they could be Afghans, Iraqis or Haitian) don't really matter.
This is one of De Palma's strongest films, hard not to associate him with the misogny and sub-Hitchcock nonsense of Dressed to Kill (where the female lead is murdered and has a noticeably similar name to a leading feminist writer!); De Palma is on stronger ground with a mostly male-cast. Here the notion of power and freedom, of being in Pig Heaven is prevalent- such as the dominance of Meserve (Sean Penn, in a classic performance) over those below him (John Leguiziamo, John C Reilly). It is only Ericson (a perfectly cast Michael J Fox) who remembers that they were meant to be the civilised.
The recreation of Vietnam is excellent, many scenes feel as if they've appeared out of books like Dispatches & Nam- David Rabe (Pavlo Humell, HurlyBurly) contributed the screenplay (though was reported to have fell out with De Palma during the subsequent critical/commercial mauling). My only retincence is about the ending...On the plus side, the classic "Look into my eyes" dialogue found itself referenced in Reservoir Dogs. We can almost understand in this scene why Meserve subsequently does what he does- having all humanity stripped away by the experience of war.
Casualties of War is one of the best Vietnam films, that with the passage of time warrants a place in this genre or the wider one of the war film.