cranky home
Reviews since 1993:   A-E     F-N      O-Z    Posters       Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do         Search the Site

Your Donations support the Site

Top Selling DVD     Books

50 Shades of Grey
Exodus Gods and Kings
Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game, The
Into the Woods

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Theory of Everything
Ride Along
We're the Millers
The Great Gatsby
The Avengers
Amazing Spider-Man
Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo
Dark Knight Trilogy
World War Z
Happy Feet 2
Iton Man 3 combo
Batman Begins
Dark Knight
Fifth Element
The Hangover
Hunger Games
James Bond 11 disc coll.
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible GP
Sherlock Holmes AGOS
Singing in the Rain
Snow White Huntsman
Star Trek Into Darkness combo
Star Wars Saga
21 Jump Street
Ultimate Matrix coll
X-Men First Class
X-Men Trilogy
X-Men Wolverine

 BLU-Ray for Family DVDs 
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
A Bug's Life
Chronicles of Narnia set
Harry Potter 1-8 collection
Iron Man 2 combo
Kung Fu Panda
Lord of the Rings Trilogy Pinocchio
Pirates of Caribbean trilogy
Pixar short films
Shrek the Whole Story
Sleeping Beauty
The Smurfs
Snow White & 7 Dwarfs
Star Trek motion pictures set
Star Trek TNG Season One
Star Wars Saga (1-6)
Toy Story combo
Toy Story 2 combo
Toy Story 3 combo
Wall-E SE


Search engine by FreeFind
Click to add search to YOUR web site!
click to search site

Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
Kung Fu Panda
The Lion King
Mary Poppins 45th LE
Princess Mononoke
Shrek the Whole Story
Simpsons Movie
Spider-Man Trilogy
Spirited Away
Star Trek movies set
Star Trek TOS (TV)
ST:TNG complete tv set
Star Wars Trilogy (1-3)
Star Wars Trilogy (4-6)
Toy Story DVD combo
Toy Story 2 DVD combo
Toy Story 3 DVD combo
Wallace and Gromit
Wall-E SE

Buy Movie collectibles
TV/Movie Collectibles

movie review query engine

NY film critics online

Privacy Policy

click for full sized poster

Courage Under Fire

Starring Meg Ryan, Denzel Washington,
Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty
and Scott Glenn
Directed by Edward Zwick

Pretty much as a rule, summer flicks tend to lean towards action and fantasy, while heavy duty dramas are usually saved for the November/December Oscar wanna-be race. Then again, when a drama is as solidly built as Courage under Fire, a summer release gives it all the more time to sit in theaters and build momentum.

This is a mother of a drama.

Denzel Washington is Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling, a medal winner as a tank commander in the Gulf War, at the center of an Army investigation (meaning: coverup) into a friendly fire incident. In the heat of tank battle, Serling gave the order and accidentally killed one of his own troops. He lied to the parents at the funeral. He is ducking a Washington Post reporter (Scott Glenn) who smells the story. He is wracked with guilt for his actions.

Buried in the Pentagon, Serling is assigned to investigate the case of another casualty in battle, Capt. Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), a Medivac helicopter pilot. Giving the Medal of Honor to this soldier has got all the politicos inside the beltway foaming at the mouth. Walden would be the first woman to receive the medal for combat. She leaves behind a 7-year-old daughter whose neck the President will hang the medal around. It's a photo op made in heaven. Literally.

The catch is this: the stories told by the witnesses to the events don't jibe. She may have been a true hero. She may have been a sniveling coward, ready to surrender at the first opportunity. Or she may have been something . . .else. Serling has got his Army superiors and the politicos from the White House (Bronson Pinchot!!) on his back to rubber stamp the award. But to give Walden the medal IF she didn't deserve it would dishonor his seventeen-year commitment to his country, dishonor the meaning of the medal and, more importantly (to him), dishonor the memory of the men killed by his friendly fire order.

And that's all I'll tell you. Courage Under Fire is rock solid, deeply layered storytelling. As you see the same story from three different sets of eyes, identical movie scenes play out with radically different emotional overtones. This kind of storytelling is almost a genre in itself, and it all dates back to Akira Kurosawa's film masterpiece called Rashoman. Meg Ryan has to deliver three different performances, yet still convince the audience that anyone of these aspects could be the true one. Indeed, they all could be true.

To a lesser extent the supporting characters have to deliver similar shades, and they do too. Of note is the performance of Lou Diamond Phillips as Monfriez, whose story is at the core of the mystery. Even if you figure it out in advance, your attention will be riveted to the screen just to make sure you got it right. Director Edward Zwick has put together an emotionally charged, visually tough movie based on an original story by Patrick Sheane Duncan. Everything about this film clicks.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Courage Under Fire, he would have paid . . .


Film. Director. Actor. Actress. Supporting Actor. Screenplay. Courage Under Fire has Oscar® written all over it.

Click to buy films starring Denzel Washington
Click to buy films starring Meg Ryan
Click to buy films starring Lou Diamond Phillips

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.