Friday, August 27, 2010

Casualties of War (1989)

This has been sitting on my Netflix Watch Instantly Queue for quite some time. Brian De Palma is an interesting filmmaker to me, its strange because he always inspires such strong opinions on both sides of the fence. There are people that can't stand him, and then there are people that will defend even his worst work (Mission To Mars). I'm somewhere in the middle, I think. When he's good, I feel he's very good, and when he's not, he's not. Basically like any other human endeavor, I guess. But I guess what I am trying to say is that he is, at the very least, always interesting. Casualties Of War is an interesting movie, and I feel like it would take someone with De Palma's, excuse me here, balls, to be able to even attempt. Its interesting watching this after reading this which is about an episode of M*A*S*H, but talks about a British documentary about the Vietnam War, made in the 60's, that congressmen wanted to keep off the air. Its interesting that by 1989 that De Palma could make a movie like this to little or no fanfare. I was twelve, so I am not sure if there was a lot of controversy surrounding the release. But, after having finally seen, it, its a pretty powerful movie which manages to make a point not only about ethics, but about war as a whole. Michael J. Fox plays Eriksson, the lone man in a unit who refuses to participate in the kidnapping, rape, and eventual murder of a Vietnamese villager woman, and then tries to bring the perpetrators to justice. This is makes up part of Fox's unofficial "dark" trilogy (along with Bright Lights, Big City and Light Of Day) I think he's good here as the junior man in the group, the one it seems who still has is morals intact, he plays it well for the most part. Although there are some Vietnam War cliches in the beginning, as the main plot sets in they are done away with. Fox's sense of betrayal is pretty palpable as people he initially sort of looks up to, start to turn on him, particularly Diaz, played by a young John Leguizamo, who at first says he isn't going to along with the rest of the group, but eventually gives in. Also interesting to note that this is John C. Reilly's first movie, and he is pretty good, obviously, at playing the easily-led lummox. One sequence, in particular, is pure De Palma, and its really good: the scene where they actually kidnap the girl from her home is pretty amazing. All in all, this is pretty dark, and made even more so since it is apparently based on a true story, but I feel like it deserves a higher place on the De Palma canon, or at least a second look.

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