Stars: Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips, Sean Astin, Michael Moriarity. Written by Patrick Sheane Duncan. Directed by Edward Zwick. Rated R for wartime violence, profanity.

Courage Under Fire is a well-plotted, well-balanced drama about a military investigation that could lead to the awarding of the first Medal of Honor for a woman in a combat situation. Denzel Washington plays Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling, the officer charged with conducting the investigation. Meg Ryan plays Captain Karen Walden, an officer who reportedly gave her life in the line of duty and was been nominated for the Medal posthumously. Set during the Gulf War, Courage Under Fire focuses intensely on its two main characters, who never actually meet. Although a fictional story, it is, nevertheless, a powerful tale of moral fortitude.

Col. Serling, who returned from Saudi Arabia six months ago, stands accused of destroying a tank in his own division during combat in the Middle East. Although he likely won t receive more than a slap on the wrist because of extenuating circumstances, he is relegated to administrative duty until the dust clears. General Hershberg (Michael Moriarity), his commanding officer, gives the still-stressed Colonel the intriguing, but undemanding, assignment of determining whether or not Captain Walden deserves the Medal of Honor. Serling s investigation leads him in several directions as he tracks down the various members of Walden s military unit. Their stories, with the exception of the one given by Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips), are generally quite positive although seemingly insignificant details occasionally conflict.

Courage Under Fire is a great piece of film making and the best to hit theaters so far this year. It stands in stark contrast to the escapist fare that is clogging up most multiplexes these days. You can bet that it will be remembered come Oscar time.

Review Menu | Front Page