Casualties of War (1989)


“Oh, you wanna take an attack posture wit’ me? Yeah, you got a weapon. Clark got a weapon, Clark got a knife! We all got weapons! Anybody can blow anybody away, any second. Which is the way it ought to be. Always.” – Meserve

Number of Times Seen – At least twice (cable in the 90’s and 6 Jul 2017)

Brief Synopsis – A young soldier must deal with his conscience when his squad mates decide to commit some atrocious acts that he doesn’t want to partake in.

My Take on it – This is a film I saw years ago and didn’t remember much about but was curious to once again see what themes are explored here.

The one thing I did recall was that the casting of Michael J. Fox in the lead role was a strange one, yet I didn’t remember if it worked or not.

Watching the recent documentary on the director Brian De Palma entitled De Palma (2015) gave me more of a drive to check this out.

The film deals with some great themes that unfortunately happen during war and they try to show us how a dissenting voice could perhaps deal with a situation where his conscience won’t allow him to partake in everything that is happening.

The fact that this is based on a real incidence makes it even more powerful to watch unfold.

The casting is superb here with Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox as the two opposing leads.

The fact that Penn is quite often perceived as the tougher persona of the two helps keep him and the angelic Fox constantly in contrast of one another.

Fox, on the other hand is quite effective here as the lead character yet it still is a bit disconcerting when he swears because you don’t expect the boy scout persona to disappear but at the same time that’s part of what makes it so effective.

In addition to Fox and Penn, there are some great performances by Don Harvey, John C. Reilly, John Leguizamo and Ving Rhames who were all unknown actors at the time.

The themes they present us with are quite emotional and most of the time come across as being extremely genuine.

Bottom Line – Very interesting look at war because it tries to show us how one soldier who sees cruel acts around him tries to hold on to his sanity while also trying to stay alive.  Even more powerful knowing that the story is based on a real event. Fox is such a great choice as the lead because he is easily seen as such a boy scout.  When he needs to swear and curse it seems so genuine yet also comical coming from Marty McFly’s mouth.  The idea to have Penn and Fox at opposing ends of the spectrum here works quite effectively due to what we know of the actors personas. The themes presented here are quite deep and emotional and it works most of the time.  Great supporting cast with numerous familiar faces that were complete unknowns at the time. Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – For Michael J. Fox’s shots, Sean Penn would be telling him that he was just a little TV actor and nothing more, to get genuine reactions for director Brian De Palma.  (From IMDB)

Rating – Globe Worthy

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3 thoughts on “Casualties of War (1989)

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