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Casualties of War (1989)

Michael J. Fox , Sean Penn , Brian De Palma  |  R |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn, Don Harvey, John C. Reilly, John Leguizamo
  • Directors: Brian De Palma
  • Writers: Daniel Lang, David Rabe
  • Producers: Art Linson, Fred C. Caruso
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Portuguese, Spanish, English, French
  • Subtitles: Chinese, English, French, Korean
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    PLEASE NOTE:
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: December 11, 2001
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005R23U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,244 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Casualties of War" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

Hailed by critics as a masterpiece, CASUALTIES OF WAR is based on the true story of a squad of soldiers caught in the moral quagmire of wartime Vietnam. Witness to a vile crime, Private Eriksson (Michael J. Fox, TV's, Spin City) is forced to stand alone against his fellow soldiers and commanding officer Sergeant Meserve (Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking), a powerful and charismatic man pushed over theedge of barbarism by the terror and brutality of combat. With sweeping scope, action and raw power,master filmmaker Brian DePalma (The Untouchables) creates a devastating and unforgettable tale of one man's quest for sanity and justice amidst the chaos of war.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
(110)
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth is more Shocking than Fiction April 29, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
Casualties of War is a unique film. There are many films that depict wartime atrocities. This one stands above the rest because of it's character development. We get to know the guilty parties, and they are not purely evil, but are in many ways quite ordinary. They seem like regular US GI's at first, just trying to survive day by day.
Sean Penn's character (Sgt Meserve) leads them into an abyss, and only one of them (Eriksson, played by Micheal J Fox) refuses to enter. The others commit murder and rape, while Eriksson cringes. The separate perpetrators display trepidation, anxiousness, remorse and the lack thereof. Other characters exhibit cynicism and callousness. Their victim shows her fear alone.
This film is effective because it shows all but one of the soldiers as having different and human sides. Eriksson and Diaz (John Leguizamo) know that what is happening is wrong, but one fails to stop it, and the other participates. Meserve comes up with absurd lies to try to justify what they are doing, not only for Eriksson, but for the others, and it seems even for himself. Only one character in this film (Clark) is completely inhuman. His sadistic fervor and amoral smugness makes him appear as a monster, plain and simple.
This film is effective because it shows seemingly normal men in a descent into utter barbarism. Thuy Thu Le sets the mood for this by portraying the terror of their victim so well. Sympathy for the victim will surely make anyone cringe. But, it is by showing that the perpetrators, except Clark, are like most anyone that this film has its' strongest affect. How would we each fare if faced by such a situation? Who among us would stand against it? Who would succumb to it? This film strikes deeper than any horror film, with obviously inhuman monsters. It shows real people who become monsters, and is therefore vastly more effective- even more so because it all really happened.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Movie That Must Be Seen March 8, 2003
Format:DVD
Director Brian DePalma explained during the excellent "Marking Of" feature that he had wanted to make this film for nearly two decades. Why do so many truly great stories take soooooo long to reach the screen? Is it because studio executives believe everything must be dummy-downed or that American audiences can't bear to watch a real horror story like "Casualties of War"?
And this is a truly gut-wrenching story. You don't just watch this movie, turn the "off" switch and that's it. This story stays with you. It should.
"Casualties of War" depicts, painfully and directly, the dehumanizing nature of war. Yet, through Michael J. Fox's character (Eriksson), we see that even under these extreme circumstances, the most courageous people cling to their humanity. They don't completely resign from the human race.
Personally, I consider this film far superior to any other made about the Vietnam war -- better than the much overrated "Platoon" and even "Apocalypse Now."
For "Casualties of War" puts a very real human face on its story. While much has been said about Sean Penn's menacing and Michael J. Fox's tormented performances -- both are excellent -- I won't soon forget Thuy Thu Le, the actress who portrayed the innocent girl raped and butchered.
I'm flabbergasted that one critic called this film "unbearable" because the victim was given so little to say and was so passive. Just how aggressive was this tiny "girl" supposed to be when confronted by an armed squad? She spoke but no one could understand her. They didn't care what she had to say. She wasn't human to them. And that's the whole point.
What will haunt me when I recall this movie is the expressions on Thuy Thu Le's face. Horrified. Frighted. Confused. Innocent.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest War Film of the Last Decade May 17, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Along with Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, Casualties of War is one of the finest films about the Vietnam war. It should not, however, be viewed in the format available on VHS cassette, which is panned and scanned (at times, half of the image is missing). Like all De Palma films, it ideally should be viewed in a theater on a huge screen with stereo sound in order to achieve its full, emotionally draining, and audio-visually stunning impact. Since that opportunity won't come very soon for most people, wait until it comes out on DVD, at least so that you can get the letterboxed image and digital sound. Fox, Penn, Leguizamo, Reilly and the rest of the cast give memorable, at times haunting performances. Morricone's thoughtful score is exquisitely, operatically dramatic. And De Palma, muting some of his more baroque techniques, neverthless continues to explore his recurrent thematic concerns, pushing them to their logical conclusions in a war genre that is new to him only in environment if not in spirit (most of his films are about violent atrocities perpetrated by men). The film failed at the box office when it was released in theaters, probably because it disturbed audiences who wanted a friendlier vision of Vietnam, in which American soldiers were at least martyrs, if not heroes (such as Platoon, Born on the 4th of July, Coming Home, and the like). Other viewers complained that De Palma made his film too late in the Vietnam cycle, that his film retold a too familiar story. Read more ›
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