HTF REVIEW: "Casualties of War"

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Dec 3, 2001.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Casualties of War

    Having never seen Casualties of War previously
    until this new DVD release by Columbia/Tristar, I had
    no idea what I was getting into. By the time the
    film ended, I was feeling very upset.
    Though not one of the better Vietnam movies I have
    ever seen, Casualties of War affected me more
    deeply than any other. I have a feeling that many
    of you who watch this film will encounter the same
    angry, upsetting feelings that I had.
    Based upon a true incident, Brian DePalma directs
    this story of a squad of five soldiers in wartime
    Vietnam who ultimately become involved in a crime
    that will test the morals of not just everyone
    involved, but the audience of this movie as well.
    Sean Penn gives a powerful (but sometimes way over
    the top) performance as Sergeant Meserve, a respected
    and confident commanding officer who leads his men
    on what seems to be a routine mission, that is until,
    they make an early stop to raid a Vietnamese village
    and kidnap a young girl.
    The four soldiers who raid the village are excited
    over the prospect of raping this young girl. It's
    the fifth soldier, Eriksson (Michael J. Fox) who sees
    the moral horror of what is being done, and is forced
    to stand alone against his squad, defending his morals.
    Columbia has done their usual superb job of bringing
    us a worthy transfer of a catalog title. Presented
    in 2.35:1 widescreen, the picture looks quite good
    throughout with superb clarity and minimal grain.
    There is a 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2-channel Dolby
    surround channel. I was disappointed that a Vietnam
    film such as this did not have a powerful surround
    track. I found the rear surround channels to be
    weak, especially with crucial battle scenes involving
    simple gunfire to enormous explosions.
    Columbia put some considerable effort into this
    catalog title with their Supplemental Features
    section. First, is "Eriksson's War", a fairly
    recent interview with Michael J. Fox. Michael recalls
    wanting to do something as a diversion to FAMILY TIES,
    and became interested in DePalma's script. Fox goes
    on to talk about the anguishes of filming in Vietnam,
    including how sick he got in the first 4 weeks. With
    the aid of many stills taken from behind the camera,
    Fox gives us insight into DePalma's brilliant direction,
    and, compassion for his actors.
    Also seemingly put together for this DVD is an
    outstanding "Making of" documentary that goes beyond
    just showing us behind-the-scenes action, but
    rather, takes us into the very depths of putting a
    film like this together. Brian DePalma introduces
    us to the screenwriter and producer and talks about
    how he wanted to do this movie ever since reading
    a story about it in 1969. He talks about how
    difficult it was to get a studio to commit to the
    project. He then talks about the actors, one by one,
    and how he felt they contributed to this film. It's
    a very thorough and highly interesting documentary.
    There are five deleted scenes, some of which are
    very good. Most notably are the added interrogation
    scenes, one of which, is an interrogation of Eriksson
    that never was mentioned in the film.
    There are three trailers included. One is the
    original film trailer, and the other two include
    Birdy and Bridge on the river Kwai.
    This is a film I would urge to be seen, though
    I warn you that it will not be easy to watch. It
    has made me, as a viewer, very unsettled even a day
    after its initial viewing. It has made me test my
    own morals by questioning what I would do in similar
    circumstances. A film that sparks such personal
    emotion is one worth recommending to all of you.
    Release date: December 11, 2001
     
  2. Jeff_A

    Jeff_A Screenwriter

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  3. Neil S. Bulk

    Neil S. Bulk Screenwriter

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    This is a film that stays with you. I saw it once when it first came out on video, and wasn't all that impressed with it. In May, I saw a beautiful 70mm print of it, and despite really enjoying the film on this second viewing, I was amazed at how much of it I remembered from the first viewing, which was over 10 years ago. Truly the sign of a great film. I can't wait for my DVD to show up.

    Neil
     
  4. Brad_W

    Brad_W Screenwriter

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    This is definately a film that will sicken "the soul." I am sort of disappointed about Ron's review of the sound. I wish films that have some high action would contain better sound. I mean when you watch a romantic comedy or the like, I can see the sound not being "in your face," but with war films (ect.) the sound should be well driven. Other than that I am excited about getting this on DVD. The extras sound awesome. Thanks Ron.

    Oh yeah, another De Palma great!
     
  5. Ken_Pro

    Ken_Pro Extra

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    Yes, Yes, Yes!

    This movie's out already? I have got to get it.

    This is a great movie and I have never seen it in its original aspect ratio. I agree that it has occasional flaws, but it goes deeper than most every other movie about Vietnam, or any war movie for that matter.

    Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox are simply brilliant. And there are strong early roles here for Ving Rhames, John Leguizamo, and John C. Reilly.

    De Palma can rightly call this his masterpiece. I can't wait to see this disc and documentary. Kudos to Columbia.
     
  6. MattGuyOR

    MattGuyOR Stunt Coordinator

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    DePalma's masterpiece is Blow Out. Hands down.
     
  7. PatrickM

    PatrickM Screenwriter

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    Ron,

    I had the same feelings when I left the theater after watching Platoon. That scene where they kill that handicap boy sticks with me to this day even though I know it was a movie. Very unsettling.

    That's probably a reason why I won't buy this disc or Platoon for that matter.

    Patrick
     
  8. DaveCheung

    DaveCheung Agent

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    I can't wait for this disc...it's definitely the most underrated De Palma and Vietnam movie since no one knew that he, always considered the Hitchcock ripoff, can make something so personal, powerful, and memorable. It's a great release to end "the year of De Palma" as so much of his major works re-release with tons of great extras and imporved transfers.
     
  9. Jamie Cole

    Jamie Cole Stunt Coordinator

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    Can't wait to see this again... although I do agree it's tough to watch.

    Brian De Palma is hands-down my favorite director, in spite of that brief, strange misogynistic streak he went through in the early 80s (let's face it, as interesting as "Dressed to Kill" and "Body Double" were, they were exploitation films and bad ones at that). "Carrie" is simply incredible, "Sisters" is a flat-out masterpiece, and "Raising Cain" is so convoluted and packed with in-jokes and references that I see something new every time I watch it again.

    "Casualties" was just that for De Palma; a casualty. It came out right along with two other highly acclaimed Vietnam films (Stone's "Platoon" and Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket"), and was overshadowed. Frankly, I've always thought "Casualties" was the best and most affecting of the three. And everyone I've talked to, including relatives of mine that were in Vietnam, has said it is more realistic and closer to what really went on over there than anything they've seen (read: we didn't belong there and the incident documented in this film was far more typical than anyone wants to admit or remember).

    Now to have a DVD in OAR with extras (something I didn't know about or expect) to sit along side my SEs of "Carrie" and "Sisters" ... well, I just can't wait.

    Love him or hate him, you can always count on Mr. De Palma for something interesting. For this one, "interesting" is an understatement.

    ~Jamie
     
  10. Jerry Gracia

    Jerry Gracia Supporting Actor

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    I first saw this film about 6 years ago on VHS...whew, that film was very disturbing.

    I look forward to this DVD.

    I've never seen this film in its full 2.35:1 anamorphic aspect ratio...the VHS was in pan and scan my first time around.
     
  11. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Me, and my friend above Jerry Gracia were just talking about this film last night, he's really looking forward to this disc, me on the other hand, am not.
    This is one powerful film, and it's very well done, but it's too much for me to take, so i'm going to just stay out of the kitchen.
     

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