6.6/10
49,595
117 user 69 critic

Courage Under Fire (1996)

Trailer
2:21 | Trailer
A U.S. Army officer, despondent about a deadly mistake he made, investigates a female chopper commander's worthiness for the Medal of Honor.

Director:

Edward Zwick
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3,846 ( 1,323)
9 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Denzel Washington ... Nat Serling
Meg Ryan ... Karen Walden
Lou Diamond Phillips ... Monfriez
Michael Moriarty ... General Hershberg
Matt Damon ... Ilario
Bronson Pinchot ... Bruno
Seth Gilliam ... Altameyer
Regina Taylor ... Meredith Serling
Zeljko Ivanek ... Banacek
Scott Glenn ... Gartner
Tim Guinee ... Rady
Tim Ransom ... Boylar
Sean Astin ... Patella
Armand Darrius Armand Darrius ... Robins
Mark Adair-Rios ... Bobcat 5 (as Mark Adair-Riós)
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Storyline

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>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

In wartime, the first casualty is always truth. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for war violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?

Trivia

At 05:34, after LTC Serling orders CPT Boylar to move his unit to the right, as the tanks begin to turn you can see an M1A1 tank with the insignia of the World War 2 German 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich" on the right turret front (this is not the tape from mounting Combat Identification Panels or MILES). See more »

Goofs

After Walden's helicopter crashes, Ilario is tending to Rady who is injured and unconscious. When Ilario ask's Walden for a hook to hang the IV bag, Rady, still unconscious, opens his eyes for a second, then closes them. See more »

Quotes

Specialist Ilario: It's not the doing shit that gets to you. It's the consequences. Imagine a life without consequences.
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Soundtracks

Angel from Montgomery
Written by John Prine
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User Reviews

 
Worth Watching
27 July 2003 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

The story is a simple one. Washington is a Lt. Colonel responsible for some accidental deaths during a tank battle in the Gulf War. The experience leaves him feeling pretty lousy. He neglects his family and begins drinking. He's assigned to investigate the suitability of Meg Ryan as a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor. She was flying a medevac helicopter to a crash site when her aircraft was shot down by small arms fire and, apparently, she stayed behind voluntarily and ordered her crew to save themselves while she covered them. Washington interviews the crew members and gets different stories. In one story Ryan behaves heroically as described. In a second, she is a coward and collapses under fire. In yet a third, the truth emerges. Yeah, it's Rashomon, but not as original or subtle.

Still it's pretty good. And, Gott sei dank, it is not a story in which a woman proves herself as a good as a man, despite the fact that she is a member of the weaker sex. (What condescension.) Meg Ryan is a capable and courageous officer who happens to be a woman. Her sex is important to the politicians who are positively drooling over the prospect of awarding her the decoration, but isn't really important to the narrative.

The performances are better than I'd expected. Everyone, in fact, is quite good in their different ways. Matt Damon, in particular, gives a sensitive performance as a guilt-ridden medic, and looks the part, somewhat ascetic, his facial features askew with uncertainty. Meg Ryan doesn't have a chance to do more than shout orders with a Texas accent but she registers pain and determination well. Lou Diamond Phillips is perhaps the least articulated character, but that may be the fault of the role as written, which is fairly complex but a little obvious. Denzel Washington is the central figure. He's good as carrying that burden of guilt left over from his battlefield mistake but isn't too convincing as a drunk. In the end, he relieves himself of some of that torture by visiting the parents of one of the men he had killed and confessing his part in the incident. The first few times I saw this I kept thinking what some other actors would have done with this scene, but the last time I found his incarnate remorse rather moving.

There is one scene delicately shot, an uneasy exchange between the lying Damon and the perceptive Washington that's beautifully staged and acted, and another memorable first encounter between Washington and Phillips, in which both actors probe the edges of insubordination. Michael Dolan stands out in a featured bit part as a hospital orderly.

The battle scenes are well done, although a little confusing, as I'm sure they would have been at the time. Some generic conventions are adhered to. Four of our guys can slaughter dozens of them. The enemy runs headlong into a hail of bullets. But there are some interesting twists given to the situation. The Iraqis on the other side of the hill can be heard laughing at our boys (and our woman). And the ending is revisionist, but I won't go into it. Justice outs, let's say that.

It's a worthwhile watch for any number of reasons. Craftsmanlike if not poetic.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Arabic

Release Date:

12 July 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Courage Under Fire See more »

Filming Locations:

Texas, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$46,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,501,586, 14 July 1996

Gross USA:

$59,031,057

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$100,860,818
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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