Plot: What’s it about?
In the midst of the war in the Persian Gulf, Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) died in the field and now she is being considered for a Medal of Honor. This is a special case since Walden would be the first woman to receive the award, so Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) has been sent to investigate what happened. Serling talks to all sorts of people connected to Walden, such as her crew and other people who were with her in the field. It seems as though Walden, a rescue helicopter pilot, managed to succeed in a very dangerous rescue mission to save a fellow crew, but when Serling pushes further, he discovers there might be another side to the story. As he talks to various sources and looks into the facts, more and more information comes to light and some it seems to have been well hidden. But Serling has his own inner turmoil from his time in the Persian Gulf, so he keeps pushing forward and is determined to discover the truth about Walden’s death.
I remember when this film was first released, I heard some very mixed reviews, so I was unsure of what to expect when I viewed it back then. I ended up liking the film a lot, but I was let down by some parts, especially the ending. I suppose the film deserves some credit for remaining interesting, despite how predictable the storyline is, but I still think some rewrites would have enhanced the film’s impact. Even with some rather trite sequences though, Courage Under Fire is a solid movie with a terrific cast, which I think is the main reason I liked the picture in the end. Led by Meg Ryan and Denzel Washington, the cast is very good and also includes names like Lou Diamond Phillips, Bronson Pinchot, Matt Damon, and Michael Moriarty. A pretty impressive lineup I think, even if not all the names are A list folks. The actors have some pretty complex characters to work with also, which doesn’t hurt the movie’s chances and though I think more Meg Ryan was needed, the screen time is well balanced in the end. This movie is more than solid and is well worth a look, but a rental should cover most needs and I’d think this Blu-ray release is your best option.
This movie has a very solid cast, with two strong leads and a very able supporting crew to back them up. I am no superfan of Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally, Proof Of Life) and her romantic comedies, but she is talented and even though her screen time is less than I’d like, I think she captures her character very well. I think she should have been given more time to work here, but again, she is able to bring across her role with no real issues. This might not be her typical role by any means, but she still shines and in the end, she won a few points from this reviewer. As usual, Denzel Washington (Remember The Titans, Virtuosity) is strong and effective, which is all the more impressive to me since his character is very internal and conflicted. The cast also includes Sean Astin (The Goonies, Bulworth), Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, Dogma), Lou Diamond Phillips (The Big Hit, Bats), Michael Moriarty (Q: The Winged Serpent), and Bronson Pinchot (The First Wives Club, Beverly Hills Cop III). The director here is Edward Zwick, who also helmed such films as The Siege, Legends of the Fall, Glory, About Last Night…, and Leaving Normal.
Video: How does it look?
Courage Under Fire is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I might have been impressed by this transfer a few years back, but after sampling a wealth of high definition content in recent times, my standards have risen more than a little. This seems to be the same source used for the standard DVD release, so the flaws evident on that edition are magnified here. I saw a lot of edge enhancement, which is a disappointment, leaving us with a more digital texture, as opposed to smooth and crisp. I found colors to be passable, but not as vivid as I would like, while contrast remained consistent, with no real problems. The visuals are more detailed than before, to be sure, but not to a great extent. This is not a bad transfer per se, but given how incredible other films look in HD, I think this older transfer is just overmatched.
Audio: How does it sound?
The soundtrack here is DTS HD and it sounds terrific, with a good amount of power and attention to the small details. This movie has some excellent potential, from the helicopters to the gun battles and here, all the elements come through with flying colors. The surrounds light up in the flashbacks, taking us right into the heat of the moment. I loved how deep and powerful the bass is in those scenes, it really adds a lot to the experience and makes for a booming atmosphere. Outside of those scenes, the tone is more reserved, but the audio is still good and never wavers. I found no issues with dialogue, as vocals were clear and easy to understand. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A few supplements have been dropped for this release, but a few still remain. The main supplement is an audio commentary with director Edward Zwick, who offers his insight into the film and provides an enjoyable experience. He seems very relaxed and open in this session, which allows for a lot of information to be revealed and that’s always a positive. I won’t say he is a terrific speaker, but this track is a must listen for fans of the film. This disc also includes a trivia track, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.