Courage Under Fire (1996)

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.

Review by varundelpiero

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