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. In the end, this is a good movie presented on a very nice disc, which means whether you choose to purchase or rent this one, your money is well spent.
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 a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This isn’t a flawless visual presentation, but it is a darn good one and I think fans will be pleased. The flashback sequences retain the intended washed out look, while the others look more natural and refined, which is all how it should be. I saw no real problems with the colors, which look as they should, never too bright and never too dull either. The black levels seem well balanced and provide a nice level of detail, which is always good. I saw no traces of compression problems either and with a clean source print, there’s not much to complain about here.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc includes 5.1 surround tracks in Dolby Digital and DTS forms and whichever you choose, you won’t be let down. As per usual, the DTS edition offers a crisper and tighter experience, but both tracks are very good and won’t disappoint. I was surprised at how active the surrounds were and while the battle scenes pack the most punch, both mixes are immersive throughout the film. Most scenes are dialogue driven, but again, the mixes offer a pleasant and effective treatment here. I don’t think James Horner’s musical score is that awesome or anything, but it sounds good in this mix, very full and expansive. The dialogue comes off as clean and crisp, with no signs of harshness or volume hiccups in the least. This disc also includes 2.0 surround tracks in English and French, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc isn’t loaded with special features, but Fox has included some goodies to round out the disc. 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. A six minute promotional featurette, three television spots, and three trailers have also been packed onto this disc.