Taglines: Inspired by a true event, that the army never saw it coming.
The story is presented as a flashback of Max Eriksson, a Vietnam veteran. Lt. Reilly leads his platoon of American soldiers on a nighttime patrol. They are attacked by the Viet Cong after a panicked soldier exposes their position. While on flank security, the ground cracks under Eriksson and he ends up partially stuck in a Viet Cong tunnel. Eriksson’s squad leader, Sergeant Tony Meserve, pulls Eriksson out of the hole and eventually, the platoon retreats out of the jungle.
The platoon takes a break outside a river village in the Central Highlands. While relaxing and joking around, one of Meserve’s friends, Specialist 4 “Brownie” Brown, is killed when the Viet Cong ambushes them. Brownie’s death has a major impact on Meserve. Shortly afterward, the platoon is sent back to their barracks at Wolfe Base. Private First Class Antonio Dìaz arrives as the replacement radio operator.
Frustrated because his squad has been denied leave for an extended period, Meserve orders the squad to kidnap a Vietnamese girl to be their sex slave. Eriksson strenuously objects but Meserve, Cpl. Thomas E. Clark, and Private First Class Herbert Hatcher ignore Erikkson’s objections. Before the five-man squad disembarked, Eriksson talks about his concerns to his closest friend, Rowan. At nightfall, the squad enters a village and kidnaps a Vietnamese girl, Than Thi Oahn.
As the squad treks through the mountains, Dìaz begins to reconsider raping Than and begs Erikkson to back him up. The squad and Than eventually take refuge in an abandoned hooch, where Erikkson is confronted and threatened by Meserve, Clark, and Hatcher. As the taunting continued, Dìaz decides to go along with the rape in order to avoid ridicule. Erikkson, who is now outnumbered, is ordered to the guard the hooch as the rest of the men take their turn raping Than.
At daybreak, Erikkson is ordered to guard Than while the rest of the squad takes up a position near a railroad bridge overlooking a Viet Cong river supply depot. Through his acts of kindness, Erikkson manages to earn Than’s trust and prepares to go AWOL and return Than to her family. However, Meserve sends Clark to get Erikkson and Than to go to the bridge before Erikkson can carry out his plan.
Meserve has Dìaz order air support for an assault on the depot and then orders Than to be stabbed to death by Dìaz. Before Dìaz can kill her, Eriksson fires his rifle into the air, exposing them to the nearby Viet Cong. In the midst of the firefight, Than tries to escape. Eriksson tries to save her but is stopped by Meserve, who knocks Eriksson down with the butt of his gun. Eriksson watches helplessly as the entire squad shoots Than numerous times until she falls off of the bridge.
Casualties of War is a 1989 American war drama film directed by Brian De Palma, with a screenplay by David Rabe, based on the actual events of the incident on Hill 192 in 1966 during the Vietnam War. The picture stars Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn. An article written by Daniel Lang for The New Yorker in 1969, and a subsequent book were the movie’s primary sources.
Casualties of War (1989)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn, Don Harvey, John C. Reilly, John Leguizamo, Thuy Thu Le, Erik King, Jack Gwaltney, Ving Rhames, Steve Larson, Amy Irving
Screenplay by: David Rabe
Production Design by: Wolf Kroeger
Cinematography by: Stephen H. Burum
Film Editing by: Bill Pankow
Costume Design by: Richard Bruno
Set Decoration by: Peter Hancock, Hugh Scaife
Art Direction by: Bernard Hides
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: August 18, 1989