On Blu-ray and DVD: Experience it. Ask around to name films that have the Vietnam War as their setting, Outrages (1989) will rarely be mentioned. The forgetting injustice to which the Casualties of war (its title in VO) of Brian De Palma is certainly due to its chilling subject and the frontal way in which the filmmaker approached it. The magnificent video box edited by Wild Side takes the place of rehabilitation.


Outrages is based on a true story, published in The New Yorker in 1969: three years earlier, in the midst of the Vietnam War, a squad of GIs kidnapped a young woman, raped her and then murdered her. In the film, soldier Max Eriksson (Michael J. Fox) opposes Sergeant Tony (Sean Penn), who plans the kidnapping, with the consent of the rest of his troop, Thomas E. Clark (Don Patrick Harvey), Herbert Hatcher (John C. Reilly) and, despite a reluctance initial, Antonio Dìaz (John Leguizamo).

Brian De Palma does not turn his camera away from the tortures that American soldiers inflict on the young Vietnamese. The kidnapping scene is poignant, the rape scene is heartbreaking and the murder scene ends up freezing our blood. The camera adopts the gaze of Private Eriksson and the spectator is thus plunged into the heart of the horror. Like Eriksson, we refuse to believe in the inevitable, we hope that the sergeant will come to his senses, that his men will turn against their leader and then, we share Eriksson’s disgust, horrified by what is given to us at see.

More than thirty years apart, the vision of these sequences remains trying. The actress Thuy Thu Le, whom the filmmaker discovered within the Vietnamese community in Paris, delivers a moving interpretation. The terror and the suffering that can be read on his swollen face, after his ordeal, leave us speechless. All actors are fair. Sean Penn embodies a soldier who has lost his bearings and his humanity by dint of killing and escaping death. Facing him, Michael J. Fox brings the innocence of his youthful face and conveys all the contradictory emotions that his character experiences, torn between his moral sense and his obedience to orders. Perversity is Don Patrick Harvey who embodies it; for John C. Reilly, it is stupidity; for John Leguizamo, cowardice. Also in the credits are Ving Rhames as an averted lieutenant, and Dale Dye, a veteran often called upon to oversee war movies, as a captain trying to cover up the matter.

Brian De Palma’s uncompromising approach did not prevent him from establishing his cinema. Fluid and “readable” staging, off-axis shots to evoke the impotence of the protagonists. However, no gratuitous effects, nor complacent looks. The filmmaker finds the right tone to associate us with the trauma experienced on screen. Beautiful photo of Stephen H. Burum (already at work on The Incorruptibles) and sumptuous music by Ennio Morricone, who refuses the ease of associating drum and bugle, to move us with the poignant lament of his violins.

Wild Side did not skimp to offer us a Blu-ray-DVD combo accompanied by an unpublished book (A Vietnamese obsession by Nathan Rera). Many bonuses also allow us to learn more about the shooting in Thailand or the strained relations between Penn and Fox: a making-of, interviews with Michael J. Fox and Eric Schwab, the director of the second unit, as well as never-before-seen footage from the shoot. A great edition for a great film.

Anderton





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