During the Vietnam War, a soldier finds himself the outsider of his own squad when they unnecessarily kidnap a female villager.During the Vietnam War, a soldier finds himself the outsider of his own squad when they unnecessarily kidnap a female villager.During the Vietnam War, a soldier finds himself the outsider of his own squad when they unnecessarily kidnap a female villager.
Though Sean Penn's got several great films to his credit, by far this is the best work of Michael J. Fox on the big screen. His soldier with a conscious who can't live with himself after witnessing an act of barbarity that the other men of his squad commit should have brought him an Oscar nomination. In fact there could have and should have been a few of them for this film.
Fox plays a young soldier only a few weeks in Vietnam. On patrol Sergeant Sean Penn saves his life, but then on a second patrol because Penn and friends could not get leave to bleed the lizard as they say, they kidnap a young Vietnamese woman and take her on patrol. All the men on the patrol, Penn, Don Harvey, John C. Reilly, and John Leguizamo all gang rape the girl, but Fox refuses. Later on he's got a crisis of conscience.
Kids who grew up on World War II movies and westerns with clearly defined good and bad guys were ill prepared for a war in Vietnam. So was our government which had been involved in more or less degree since the end of World War II and the breakup of French Indochina. The subtleties of the regional politics eluded our policy makers in Washington. It was mighty hard to tell who was a friend and who was an enemy. You treated anyone with a yellowish pigmentation and slanted eyes as an enemy, the only friends you knew were the ones wearing the same green jungle fatigues as you were.
The war twisted Penn and Harvey. Leguizamo and Reilly were essentially followers, only Fox who hadn't been there long enough to have his sense of morality impaired could see this was all wrong. That's the frightening part of Casualties Of War. None of the four could see anything wrong, even Leguizamo who sees his first duty as to stick with the guys who have your back in the field.
As good as Fox and Penn and the rest of the Occidental cast is, the best performance in the film is Thuy Thu Lee. As the bewildered and frightened young girl she will positively break your heart with her one and only film performance.
Casualties Of War was shot in Thailand so we're seeing actual Southeast Asia locations. Brian DePalma's direction of his stellar cast is right on target. Don't ever miss Casualties Of War about the ultimate Vietnam experience.
- Nov 14, 2008