In 1991, millions of people tuned in to CNN to observe a real life and death drama played out in the cities and deserts of Iraq. For the United States, the war was more or less a display of power and a preservation of economic interest. Nobody was to ever hear of the mishaps and foul-ups of the war. In many eyes the war was seen as a chance to boost American spirit and make the government look empowered. Director Edward Zwick and writer Patrick Shane Duncan snatched onto this notion and expounded on it in their movie Courage Under Fire. Through its superb acting, successful plot, structure, and filming perfection, the movie becomes a powerful and brilliant examination of the consequences of guilt and responsibility, and the meaning of absolute truth.
Courage Under Fire was the first Gulf War movie to hit American theaters. It is a movie that steers clear of the typical type set of the war film genre. Movies like Platoon and Apocalypse Now took us into the heart of the savagery of war and its torment upon the individual. Courage Under Fire contrasts greatly with these movies by showing that acts of valor do not necessarily result from the savageness of the battlefield. The real subject of the film is not a specific war, but the military ethos and its effect on many individuals.
The movie begins as many war films have, on the battlefield. Lieutenant Colonel Nat Serling (Denzel Washington) finds himself in an impossible situation, under heavy attack at night in the middle of the Iraqi desert. He is being assaulted by the Iraqis and in an instant loses his long time friend to the horror of "friendly fire.'; He has ordered his crew to fire on another American tank under his command. Back home, the government is eagerly searching for Gulf War heroes and as a result, Serling is decorated for his bravery; yet, deep inside, he really knows that it is all a sham. He is drowned in his medals and awards and handed a desk job in the Pentagon, all to keep him quiet. Serling becomes intensely burdened by his guilt. He has become an alcoholic, his marriage is falling apart, and the government, which is covering up the incident, has not offered a means to assuage his battered conscience.
Serling's very first assignment is to determine whether or not a female officer, Capitan Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) is a deserving posthu...
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...ne flawlessly. The set was extensive, to say the least, with large battlefields and too many different locations to count. Each set was perfectly constructed and everything was realistic. Through this realism, the movie made sure that each individual watching the movie became engrossed in the storyline and the overall atmosphere. Movies that fail to do this are never taken seriously. The costumes and dialogue were also done without a flaw. Everybody looked as though they belonged in the movie and the uniforms all seemed as though they had been hand delivered by the U.S. Army. The music was a presence but certainly did not make or break the movie. It was just an average performance by James Horner.
Overall, this is a very strong movie that makes a powerful statement about the U.S. government and its actions during the Persian Gulf War. Courage Under Fire is an astoundingly intelligent and well-produced film. I would most certainly recommend this film to the mature and experienced moviegoer who is looking for something different in their viewing experience. It is a story about honor, bravery and the truth with a mystery nestled inside. Overall a 3 1/2 Star accomplishment!
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