Thursday, March 02, 2006
Every critic has his Casualties of War. A movie so fine and terrible at the same time. A movie that has a critic, blasé usually, out of his chair screaming advice into the director’s ear not to take a fatal turn from what has so far been breathtaking the helpless critic in agony sees coming. A movie full of so many wonderful possibilities the critic is robbed of impartiality and more than the director wants this movie to succeed. Casualties of War is that movie for me. Was that movie for me.
I have watched many Viet war movies. Too many perhaps. Born on the Fourth of July (total shit), Full Metal Jacket (whathefuck, that was it??? Oh, that is what it was about…), Hillburger Hill (death to the generals!), Apocalypse Now (they said Brando was in this thing, when is Brando coming on?), The Killing Fields--a cheat, but falls in the same field (awe), We Were Soldiers (Goddamn it Gibson, stop messing with my tear ducts!).
But I have never watched a Viet movie like this. I’m still trying to get over it. I think critics never talk about this movie because of all the accusatory movies made about Vietnam; this is the one movie that really makes them ashamed of what they did. This is the one. This is the one. I’m not easily shook. I was shook. I’m still shook.
Often I can spot before the director can sneak up on me his motives, often the intention to stuff a ‘generational binding’ quote in the mouth of a character. Fans of those movies above will complete even before I begin quotes like, “What we have here…is a failure to communicate.” But Casualties of War for days had me repeating things like, “I’m armor-plated mouthfucker, I can’t die!” or at inappropriate moments Sean Penn shaking his rifle, “The army calls this a weapon, but it ain’t. (Grabbing his bulging crotch), this is a weapon! This (the rifle)…is a gun. This (crotch) is for fighting, this (gun) is for fun,” and “Ye though I walk through the valley of evil, I shall fear no death, because I’m the meanest mouthfucker in the valley.”
Deliberately I haven’t watched many Sean Penn movies for many reasons. Sean Penn is a fine actor but for me not a diverse one. It is a curse and a blessing that one of the first actors I ever watched was Marlon Brando. In Casualties of War, Penn is a Brando imitator (he fails like all the actors who have tried) but the rage is all his own. Casualties of War is a movie of rage. The first half is.
There’s a terrible sin at the heart of Casualties of War waiting for you. Today I have to deny you. Dear reader, I’ll not tell you what that sin is. To tell you would be to ruin a rare cinematic experience you may not have had yet. I will let you find it yourself.