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4.4 out of 5 stars63
4.4 out of 5 stars
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The basic plot line of "Courage Under Fire" is that Lt. Col Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is investigating an incident during the Gulf War to determine whether or not the Medal of Honor should be awarded posthumously to Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan). It does not take us long to find out that the title of this film refers to both Serling and Walden. The initial story on Walden, the pilot of a rescue helicopter, is that she made a spectacular rescue of a downed helicopter crew, then fought off attacking Iraquis after her own copter crashed, dying right before the besieged group was rescued. But as Serling questions the surviving members of Walden's crew, he discovers their various versions do not jive, and he begins to question what is the truth of what really happened. Moreover, Serling is haunted by his own actions during the Gulf War, where he was responsible for a "friendly fire" incident that resulted in the death of American soldiers. To complicate matters even more, Serling is drinking way too much, has grown distant from his family, and is being hounded by both a commanding officer (Michael Moriarity) who wants the P.R. value of Walden being the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor and a reporter (Scott Glenn) who knows something of what happened to the Colonel in Iraq and wants to know the rest.
"Courage Under Fire" makes excellent use of the "Rashomon" technique, wherein we get to see each person's version of what really happened in Iraq. Serling's own feelings of guilt and responsibility for what happened in Iraq provide an additional level of depth to the narrative (more so than in Kurosawa's original classic film in fact). Some may find the parallel attempts to find redemption to be somewhat heavy handed, but ultimately the film succeeds because of the solid acting performances. In addition to Washington and Ryan, who never have a scene together, there are solid performances from Lou Diamond Phillips and a very underweight Matt Damon as surviving members of Walden's crew, Michael Moriarity as the General, Scott Glenn as the reporter, and Regina Taylor as Serling's wife. Certainly this film is closer to the reality of Desert Storm than "Three Kings," but the main enjoyment here is watching Ryan and her crew do the same lines with totally different meanings because of radical changes in context while Washington tries to find meaning in his own life.
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on 15 January 2003
This is a riveting Military drama that works as a human drama as well. Director Edward Zwick (Glory, Legends of the Fall) has made something special here as what could have been a routine story takes on depth and a sense of honor and history as this routine investigation into the death of the first female officer killed in combat turns into a marshy quicksand of lies and deception about the events leading to her death.
Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is assigned the task of signing off on the details so Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) can be given the Medal of Honor for her sacrifice. But as Serling begins to talk to the crew of soldiers who went down with Walden in the Medivac helicopter over Kuwait he becomes unsure whether or not she deserves it. It is not any kind of preconceptions about women in combat that prompts his misgivings but his conversations with those involved.

Michael Moriarty gives a fine performance as Serlings superior and old friend Brigadier General Hershberg. The President wants to give Walden this honor and the pressure is great on Serling to hurry up and sign off on the investigation. Ilario (Matt Damon) was the closest to Walden personally and he seems just a little to scared of the investigation to Serling. Lou Diamond Phillips gives the performance of his career as the hard edged Sgt. Monfriez, a Military lifer with a chip on his shoulder who thinks Serling is there to whitewash what happened and will tell him nothing.
Denzel Washington gives another great performance as the flawed Lieutenant Colonel Serling, whose attempt to get at the truth may cost him his career. Scott Glenn has a nice turn in this quietly powerful drama as a reporter who smells a big story. This film is about honor and integrity and human weakness. The flashback scenes are riveting as each soldier tells his 'version' of events. When Serling finally uncovers the truth, which is quite different from the offical version, it still remains a story of courage under fire.
Though Denzel gets most of the screen time Meg Ryan holds her own and equals him. Her moments on screen paint a portrait of a very real person who served her country bravely and with honor. This film slowly draws you in until you are glued to the screen, waiting for the truth to come out. It is a testemant to honor and sacrifice by our military, whatever the circumstances. If you don't own this film you'll want to pick it up soon. It's one you'll watch more than once.
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on 16 April 2007
Denzel Washington plays an officer in charge of a tank brigade during the war. The unit he commands is involved in a friendly fire accident that kills one of his own men. After the war he tries to take responsibility for his part in the accident, but his superiors won't allow him to.

Also in the movie Denzel Washington's character seems to have developed drinking problems and other family problems due to his guilt. Whether or not he is actually guilty of anything or not he is consumed by his guilt and states more than once that he just wants to get this investigation right. It is almost as if he feels he can get rid of his guilt by handling this properly.

The character who gets killed is Meg Ryan who doesn't share any screen time with Denzel. Also featured are Matt Damon and Lou Diamond Phillips; members of Ryan's unit.

The filming uses a little known technique known as the Rashomon technique where the versions of each of the unit members are related, and believe me do they conflict ! Watch the film to see to what extent and whether Denzel absolves himself.
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on 24 September 2011
The 1996 film 'Courage under Fire' most definitely initiated a chang of pace for Meg Ryan. Very well known for her 'fluffy' films such as: 'When Harry met Sally';'You've Got Mail' et al,'Courage under Fire'gave Ryan a chance to show she could act,given the right script,and the right director (Steven Rosenblum). It is a cracker of a story-line,with Denzel Washington giving a first rate performance (as indeed, the rest of the cast does,including an actor called Matt Damon!). Suffice to say it is a war film with a most unusual twist,equally,you can call it a Thriller if you so wish. Call it what you may,it's an utterly absorbing film. If you want a film which will satisfy you on all counts,this is the film for you!
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Well acted and well written - Meg Ryan ditched the cutesy rom-com roles for this one and succeeded (although it's Lou Diamond Phillips as the mouthy grunt who steals a lot of the movie).

But British fans should be aware that when buying the BLU RAY - the US edition on 20th Century Fox is REGION A LOCKED - so it won't play on UK machines unless they're chipped to be 'all regions' which most aren't.

Buy the UK version instead - it's cheap - a looker on the Format - and a quality movie into the bargain...
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on 5 February 2001
this is a very touching story from start to finish. It follows the investigations of denzel washington of whether meg ryan should be the first women given a medal of bravery postumously. The story follows the tough time of both washington and ryan through war and the true bravery that can come from a person.all in all a truly great film with action and sentiment.
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VINE VOICEon 13 January 2006
Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serving (Denzel Washington) makes the ultimate boo boo. In the heat of the moment he targets our side.
While still in a slump over this he is challenged to check out Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) who is inline for the Medal of Honor (posthumously). We go through several conflicting versions of her story as told from different view points of survivors. Each teller seems to have something to hide. Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel starts to get suspicious as to why he was picked for the job.
Meg Ryan does a good job of portraying the different personalities ascribed to her along with the different scenarios as described in each version of the story.
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on 26 February 2007
Hi, if you are a fan of denzel washington then don't hesitate, buy this now, if not then still buy it because this is a brilliant war movie. i'll start by saying if you've ever seen the movie "basic" then this is similar to that, this is because it has one man trying to find out the truth of what really happened, appart from this is set in the gulf war, not a training excercise in the jungle. it may sound boring but i can assure you there are plenty of flashbacks with a decent amount of action to keep you interested. if you want to know what it's about read amazons review. p.s if you interested in this film maybe you'll be interested in some other of my reviews. thanks for reading.
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on 22 February 2014
Troubled Tank Commander who accidently destroyed one of the tanks under his command during confused night tank battle is assigned to investigate a 'routine' clear up enquiry to tidy up 'loose ends' so that a female medevac pilot can be posthumously awarded US highest military award 'Medal of Honour' turns out to be far from that as the story enfolds of how the pilot actually died in combat. Story of how you have to learn to forgive yourself as well as accepting that nobody is perfect and in the heat of battle accidents can and do happen. Also the story of how in extreme circumstances the best always comes out. Moving and interesting story of 'courage under fire'.
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on 28 March 2013
This is really good and I can recommend it.
I won't ruin it by going through the storyline but Denzel Washington makes it compulsive viewing.
Although it has a war aspect to it, thankfully any explosions etc. are only there when they are needed and subservient to the story ,so I wouldn't be put off even if you don't usually consider a war movie your thing, it's definitely not a blood and guts war movie it's more akin to a thriller type genre.
It isn't perfect which is why it's not quite a five, in particular I found the tossing in of the occasional pointless cliche such as the 'drink problem' annoying, they just don't need to be there.
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