Casualties of War

1989 film directed by Brian De Palma

Casualties of War is a 1989 film about a soldier in the Vietnam war who finds himself the outsider of his own squad when they kidnap, rape, and murder a female villager. Based on a true story.

It's not the enemy you fight to kill, but the innocent you fail to save.
Directed by Brian De Palma, written by David Rabe, based on the novel by Daniel Lang.
Even in war… murder is murder.  (taglines)

Sergeant Tony Meserve

  • 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.
  • A VC sympathizer can get killed real easy, don't you know that? Somebody stumbles, they don't mean to shoot you, they're sorry…friendly fuckin' casualty. I mean, a body bag's a body bag, right?

Second Lieutenant Reilly

  • On the day I was born, my momma grunted. I popped out. Took one look around. "Shit!" I says. It's Two Creeks, Texas." So about eight years ago I'm still in Two Creeks. My wife's about to give birth to her first child. I took her to the hospital, natural thing to do. Well, she was refused admittance to this hospital on the basis of her race- which is, as you might guess, Negro. Next thing I know the baby ain't about to wait. And so my son is born on the goddamn floor of this hospital's reception room… Eriksson, I flipped the fuck out. I started turnin' over chairs, kickin' lamps- wasn't long before I was in jail. Now, wasn't I on the side of righteousness? So what was I doing in jail? What I was doing, let me advise you, was fixin' to shoot some mothafuckas working in that hospital, that's what I was doing.

Private Eriksson

  • This goddamn thing's turnin' us on our heads, man! I mean, Just because any of us at any second might be blown away, everybody's acting like we can do anything, man! And it don't matter what we do! But I'm thinkin' maybe it's the other way around. You know, maybe the main thing is just the opposite. Because we might be dead in the next split second, we gotta be extra careful what we do. Jesus, man, maybe it matters more than we even know.


Eriksson: Give me a minute on this thing we're doing. I mean, what we're doing. What are we doing, Sarge?
Meserve: We have a VC suspect. Is that what you mean? She's a VC whore and we're gonna have fun with her.
Eriksson: She's just a farm girl.
Meserve: You're the cherry here, right? So lighten up. Let me carry the weight.
Clark: What's the problem, Sarge?
Meserve: He don't think our VC whore is a VC whore.

Meserve: Don't fuck with me. You're taking your turn in there.
Eriksson: No! I ain't raping nobody!
Meserve: You think you're sayin' no to ME? You ain't hotshot enough to be sayin' no to me. [Eriksson walks out of the hut] MOTHERFUCK- MOTHERFUCKER! You think you're standin' up to me? HUH?!
Eriksson: I ain't doin' it! No way!
Meserve: Well, what's the matter, don't you like girls? Ain't you got a pair, is that your problem?
Clark: What's goin' on here, Sarge?
Meserve: Eriksson here don't wanna ball the dink.
Clark: Why?
Meserve: I don' know.

Capt. Hill: Eriksson, these men fucked up good. But you bringing formal charges against them, is that gonna help that poor girl one little bit?
Eriksson: Maybe if you'd have been there, sir. Maybe if you had heard her screaming, you'd feel—
Capt. Hill: YOU DON'T TELL ME SHIT ABOUT SCREAMING, BOY! I've heard a LOT of fuckin' screaming in this country! Most of it's come from wounded American boys. [pauses] I'm gonna transfer you out of my company, Eriksson. That alright with you? I'll get you out of the bush, out of the infantry- any fuckin' place you wanna go, you name it. I saw your 201 file in the rear. Said you volunteered to be a tunnel rat. Is that what you want, Eriksson?
Eriksson: I'd like to get out of this particular company, yes, sir.
Capt. Hill: Well, that's a Rog, Eriksson- you're a tunnel rat. We get to the rear, you pack your trash-
Eriksson: That's not gonna keep me from trying to bring this thing out, sir.
Capt. Hill: Nobody's trying to keep you from doing a goddamn thing. My function here is just to tell you just how something like this is gonna come down. And you oughta be advised that military court-martials are notoriously lenient, and stateside review boards are even more lenient. Even if these four guys get convicted they're not gonna do any real time.
Eriksson: Yes, sir.
Capt. Hill: In fact, they're gonna be out of the stockade before you can flick flies offa shit, Eriksson. And if I was them, I'd be pissed off- wouldn't you? I'd be lookin' for a little PAYBACK! Now, a man like you- wife, baby daughter- I'd be considering those factors very carefully.
Eriksson: Pardon me sir, what's your point, sir?
Capt. Hill: There ain't no point, Eriksson. I'm simply trying to illuminate the terrain in which we currently find ourselves deployed. You don't mind that, do you? And if you do, FUCK YOU!
Eriksson: Yessir.
Capt. Hill: You on my frequency?!
Eriksson: Yes, SIR!
Capt. Hill: YOU FUCKIN' MAGGOT! Who the hell do you think you are?! You're in that report recommending Meserve for a Bronze Star- he pulled you out of a VC tunnel, boy! Now the shit with that girl, that was wrong. But he's a kid, Eriksson, he's twenty goddamn years old! And you're gonna ruin his life! He saved yours.

Eriksson: You sick son of a bitch!
Clark: I told you, cherry. What happens...
[Eriksson swings the shovel he's carrying and hits Clark in the face, knocking him out.]
Eriksson: Nobody cares, Meserve. Oh, I told everybody! I told them. You don't have to worry. You don't have to try to kill me, man. I told them, and THEY DON'T CARE!
Meserve: You beaucoup dinky dau, man. You beaucoup dinky dau!

Capt. Hill: You couldn't let it rest, could you? You had to push it.
Eriksson: Go to hell. SIR.

[from the Extended cut of the film]
Attorney: Why the Hell didn't you just let that girl go when you had the chance?! In fact if you wanted to save her so badly, why didn't you just shoot the other members of your patrol and be done with it?!
Eriksson: I thought about it.
Attorney: But you didn't do it, did you?! Because you were watching out for your own sweet ass is why you didn't do it.
Eriksson: I probably should have shot him! Yeah, I probably should have shot Clark! And Meserve. Yeah, I probably should have shot them, yes, sir! Instead of what I did, which was nothing! They killed her, sir. I MEAN THEY FUCKING KILLED HER!


  • Even in war… murder is murder.
  • It's not the enemy you fight to kill, but the innocent you fail to save.


Wikipedia has an article about: