Casualties of War was based on a New Yorker article by Daniel Lang. This, in turn, was inspired by a true incident which illustrated the dehumanizing aspects of the Vietnam experience. Michael J. Fox plays Eriksson, a member of an American squadron stationed in the deepest jungles of Southeast Asia.
Sean Penn co-stars as Meserve, the squadron sergeant, who vows revenge after his best friend is killed.
He orders his men to invade a village and requisition a young Vietnamese girl (Thuy Thu Lee), who is repeatedly tied, gagged and gang-raped. The horrified Eriksson refuses to participate in these atrocities, and he does his best to console the girl and to attempt to free her. Before this can happen, however, Meserve orders another man to kill the girl.
Once he returns to camp, Eriksson attempts to file a report on the tragedy and to bring Meserve and the others to justice, but he is stonewalled by the brass and threatened with death by his fellow soldiers.
Eventually Meserve and his co-conspirators are jailed for their crimes, but Eriksson can never forget his compliance in the incident by failing to save the girl. The script is by well-known playwright David Rabe.