Published on December 15th, 2008 | by Chris1
Courage Under Fire (1996)
I've heard so many good things about 1996's Courage Under Fire, and I finally got a chance to check it out. But I have to say I was somewhat disappointed with the results.
Lt. Col. Nat Serling (Denzel Washington) is charged with finding out the full story behind a recommendation for the Medal of Honor on the part of the late Capt. Karen Walden (Meg Ryan). He manages to find the other parties involved in the incident, including the strung-out medic Ilario (a young Matt Damon), the Rambo-wannabe Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips).
What ensues is replay after replay of the incident over Desert Storm-era Kuwait which leaves Walden dead, but from all the different viewpoints of the parties involved.
To top it all off, we have to deal with Lt. Col. Serling's problems after his involvement in a friendly-fire incident which left a tank crew dead after he gave the order to fire on them.
So what's the problem? Denzel's performance is up to his usual standards, take that for what you will. But I grew weary of Ryan's 'hillbilly' portrayal quickly. What was up with that accent!? Not buying it. The remaining characters were just a bit too stereotypical for my tastes. Especially Monfriez.
Yes of course the truth comes out in the end, both in the Medal of Honor case and in Serling's own life. But what's the message here? What's the point of the whole thing? That the fog of war is ultimately highly subjective and that "the truth" depends on a great many viewpoints and variables? Sure, I'll give you that.
But the journey to that realization just didn't do it for me. Especially in Serling's case. The way it kept rearing its ugly head just muddied the waters with respect to the main case, the Walden incident.
Try as I might, I just can't give a huge stamp of approval on this one. Courage Under Fire might be one of the few Desert Storm movies out there, but I'm not sure what the point of that was, except to wrap a few star names around a murder mystery and wrap it up in a glossy package.
Summary: Courage Under Fire might be one of the few Desert Storm movies out there, but I'm not sure what the point of that was, except to wrap a few star names around a murder mystery and wrap it up in a glossy package.