‘Casualties of War’ depicts battle of morals; provides TV star Fox with first dramatic role

By Lynn Rogers

“Casualties of War” is a rivoting, compelling movie about what happens to men in the face of death, destruction and violence.

Though we’ve recently been bombarded with films about Vietnam, “Casualties of War” exceeds its bloody predecessors “Platoon”, “Hamburger Hill”, and “Full Metal Jacket.” Despite its title, “Casualties of War” is more a story about people than a display of guts and gore.

Director Brian DePalma (“Scarface” and “The Untouchables”) is surprisingly low-key in this film, letting the story take over. At the center of the plot is a bitter battle of morals between Pvt. Eriksson (Michael J. Fox) and his hard-nosed sergeant Meserve (Sean Penn).

In retaliation for the sniper killing of the squad’s radio man, Meserve and his buddies kidnap a young Vietnamese girl for “some portable R & R.” Eriksson is horrified and refuses to go along with the ensuing beating, rape and eventual murder of the girl (nicely played by newcomer Thuy Thu Le).

Eriksson stands up to Meserve and his squad members and tries to befriend the girl. He soon finds himself ostracized from the squad, at one point being the target of a murder attempt.

Fox is surprisingly credible as the naive soldier who bucks the system. There are no Alex Keaton-type expressions in this movie. It is his first true dramatic role and Fox carries it off well, making the audience identify with his plight.

Penn, the perennial Bad Boy, is also convincing as the bitter, nearly maniacal Meserve. This could be due in part to his reputed off-screen antics–one could hardly imagine him in Fox’s role.

Be warned: “Casualties of War” is a serious movie about human nature, conflict and bureaucracy. Don’t expect to walk out of the theatre in a good mood after this one. If, however, you are up to a solid, gripping film, “Casualties of War” is highly recommended.