Edward Zwick directed the war drama ‘Courage Under Fire‘ in 1996. It was written by Patrick Sheane Duncan and released by 20th Century Fox. The movie used real British Centurions tanks that were augmented to resemble the US military vehicles to maintain authenticity.
Lt. Colonel Nathaniel “Nat” Serling (Denzel Washington) was involved in an incident where an order he gave caused US troops to be killed by friendly fire during the Gulf War, though the Pentagon is trying to keep it under wraps despite reporter Tony Gartner (Scott Glenn) snooping around. His superior Brigadier General Hershberg (Michael Moriarty) orders to examine an incident where a pilot Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) was killed to see if she deserves to be the first woman to receive a Medal of Honor. He first interviews crewmembers Warrant Officer One A. Rady (Tim Guinee) and Specialist Andrew Ilario (Matt Damon) who say she was a hero. However, Staff Sergeant John Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips) calls her a coward. The last member of the team Sergeant Steven Altameyer (Seth Gilliam) has vanished. As contradictions pile up, Nat struggles to find the truth as his own nightmares catch up to him.
I do not know where to begin with this movie. I enjoyed it a great deal and it is no wonder that both critics and audiences gave it a big opening at the box office.
First of all, the performances are incredible. Denzel Washington delivers on every level as a man trying to seek redemption in the midst of the fog of war. Philips and Damon are both spectacular in their roles with even Sean Astin’s cameo being spot on.
More so, I have to give credit to Meg Ryan. Growing up with a sister who likes rom-coms, I saw her play essentially the same role for over a decade. This time, she gets to show off her acting skills and she did not disappoint. Ryan was excellent and I applaud her for breaking out of the mold.
As for the story, it does not miss a beat. I was enthralled by it. As Nat searches for answers, he starts to doubt the official narrative of Walden being a hero, but then he wonders if he is imprinting his own nightmares onto her story. It was one of the best war dramas that I have seen.
Bottom line, Courage Under Fire is one of the best to come out of the nineties. I enjoyed it a great deal as it not only has a good story but some dynamite performances.
Check out the trailer below:
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This article has been updated from a previous version.