The pilot of a rescue copter, Captain Karen Walden, died shortly before her helicopter crew was rescued after it crashed in Desert Storm. It first appears that she made a spectacular rescue of a downed helicopter crew, then held her own crew together to fight off the Iraqis after her copter crashed. Lt. Colonel Serling, who is struggling with his own demons from Desert Storm, is assigned to investigate her worthiness for the Medal of Honor. But some conflicting accounts, from her crew and soldiers in the area, cause him to question whether she deserves it. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
In order to lose the required amount of weight for the present day scenes, Matt Damon went on a strict regimen of food deprivation and physical training. This caused his health to become so frail, that he was put on medical supervision for several months after the shoot. However, his efforts didn't go unnoticed: director Francis Ford Coppola was so impressed by Damon's display of method acting, that he offered him the leading role in The Rainmaker (1997). While making Good Will Hunting (1997), after regaining his healthy weight, Damon met Steven Spielberg (who was then casting Saving Private Ryan (1998)). Spielberg told Damon that he had loved his performance in "Courage Under Fire" and had wanted to hire him to play Private Ryan, but was afraid that Damon was too skinny. Once Spielberg saw Damon at his normal weight, he hired him for Ryan. See more »
While Dr. Mary E. Walker was the first woman to be awarded the Medal of Honor (in 1866, for bravery as a surgeon), Capt. Walden would have been, as stated, the first woman to be nominated for the medal "for performance under fire". See more »
Tony Gartner, Washington Post:
General, Colonel Sterling's order to activate lights, was that a standard response to enemy infiltration of the lines?
At the critical moment, in spite of terrible losses, Colonel Sterling didn't hesitate to act. Ordering those tanks to turn on their lights saved the lives of God knows how many of our men. Heroic acts arise out of desperate circumstances.
Tony Gartner, Washington Post:
I have no trouble at all believing Colonel Sterling is a hero.
Like Captain Karen Walden. Did you know, Mr Gartner, that for the first time a...
[...] See more »
Profound, intelligent, and moving; one of Zwick's best...
Edward Zwick's second war-based movie (following the successful GLORY) is almost as good as his first, and every bit as watchable. I have particularly liked stories that use different viewpoints to tell the same story (hence creating different versions of the same story). These types of movies stemmed no doubt from Akira Kurosawa's epic RASHOMON, and while films that use this strategy rarely live up to Kurosawa's original in terms of intelligence and portrayal (the most recent being the slightly-better-than-mediocre VANTAGE POINT), COURAGE UNDER FIRE is still a rewarding Motion Picture.
Denzel Washington is near his brilliant best as the troubled Lieutenant Colonel on the verge of alcoholism due in part to his overwhelming feelings of guilt following a military procedure gone wrong. His depression and curiosity fuel his determination to get to the bottom of the 'mystery' even if it puts him out of favour with his Commanding Officers. Meg Ryan is equally superb, and as each re-telling of the story demands her to take on a different personality (similar to the female lead in RASHOMON), she manages to pull each one off effectively. Matt Damon puts in a reliable shift, even losing upward of 20 pounds to take on the role. For me, the biggest surprise is Lou Diamond Phillips who is actually quite watchable, and does not overact, as is his tendency.
Zwick's COURAGE UNDER FIRE is an examination of war from a less visceral point of view, and will stay with the viewer long after watching the movie. It deeply delves into themes of responsibility, guilt, and truth in an overall compelling Motion Picture. The script is effective and the buildup to the somewhat sentimental ending is quite commendable.
8/10. 3.5 stars (out of 4). Highly recommended. Should enter my Top 200 at around #183.
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