Courage Under Fire (1996) / Drama-War
MPAA Rated: R for violence and language
Running time: 117 min.
Cast: Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty, Matt Damon, Bronson Pinchot, Scott Glenn, Sean Astin, Sean Patrick Thomas, Bruce McGill
Director: Edward Zwick
Screenplay: Patrick Sheane Duncan
Captain Karen Walden (Ryan, Sleepless in Seattle) is the first woman ever to be nominated for the military's vaunted Medal of Honor after dying in a seemingly heroic effort in the Gulf War. A colonel named Serling (Washington, Devil in a Blue Dress) is sent to investigate Walden's worthiness for the award, all the while having to deal with his own mistakes as a result of a friendly fire killing of one of his own men, which was reported as an enemy killing so that the Army could avoid negative press. All is not kosher as inconsistencies plague the stories told to Serling by the men under her command. This sets off an investigation concerning whether honesty is really the best policy, militarily speaking, or if the whole truth, warts and all, is what should be sought when dealing with military issues.
Edward Zwick (About Last Night, The Last Samurai) handles the direction with all of the skill he showed in his previous outstanding effort, Glory (also starring Denzel Washington). It's a truly gripping mystery, and one hell of a dramatic performance by an excellent Washington. Everything clicks in this moving and interesting film. Even the once thought washed-up Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns, The Big Hit) is excellent as the obstinate Monfriez, who seems to be holding the key to the mystery regarding what happened during Walden's fateful stand against the Iraqis. A disturbing and ultimately rewarding film that is definitely worth watching and thinking about long after.
©1997 Vince Leo