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.