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"COURAGE UNDER FIRE"
(1996) (Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Mild Moderate Moderate Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None None None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Mild Minor Minor Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: An army colonel must decide whether a medal of honor should go to the first woman ever nominated for it.
PLOT:
Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling (DENZEL WASHINGTON) is a tank commander in the Gulf War. During an intense fight, with limited visibility, he gives the command to fire upon what is believed to be an enemy tank. But it's not and inside is a good friend of his. Racked by guilt, Serling slowly begins to turn to the bottle even though the Army brushed this incident under the rug. In a strange twist of fate, they decide that he should head up the research division responsible for determining the authenticity of those who've been nominated for the Medal of Honor. His first case concerns the late Captain Karen Walden (MEG RYAN), a Medivac helicopter pilot who risked and lost her life saving another downed crew. She is also the first woman nominated for the Medal. But what Serling finds are discrepancies in the stories reported from eyewitnesses such as Monfriez (LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS) and Llario (MATT DAMON) as well as pressure from General Hershberg (MICHAEL MORIARTY) to wrap this nomination up as quickly as possible. In addition, Tony Gartner (SCOTT GLENN), a newspaper reporter, wants to uncover the truth behind the friendly fire incident. As he digs deeper and deeper, Serling begins to unravel the truth and at the same time face his inner demons that plague him.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Older children might, but this drama will seem boring to most younger kids.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For war violence and language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • DENZEL WASHINGTON plays an officer wracked with guilt for the death of his friend. He turns to the bottle, but soon overcomes that as he pursues the truth of the Walden case which in turn helps ease his inner demons.
  • MEG RYAN plays the fictitious character nominated for the Medal of Honor and although she is portrayed in different ways throughout the movie (based on many different accounts), in the end she is known to have shown bravery, compassion and sacrifice for her country.
  • LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS plays a tough as nails soldier who in the end is found to have been responsible for Walden's death. Racked by guilt, he kills himself.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 9 out of 10
    This is, by all means, the best movie of the year so far. While other films might have more bang for the buck, and might be more entertaining, this film is certainly the strongest we've seen. The performances all around are outstanding, from Washington's Oscar caliber performance to the smaller supporting roles, including a good one from Phillips. While Ryan has a small part, she is also excellent. Although the story begins to lag somewhat in the middle, as the same story is told over and over again from different perspectives, the question of which story is correct as well as the emotional ending make this film a winner. We give it a 9 out of 10.
    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Other than the profanity and the war scenes, there's not a great deal to object to. Granted, Serling is a borderline alcoholic, but who wouldn't be after what he had just been through, plus he appeared to be kicking the habit by the time the movie ended. The war scenes aren't any worse than in any old WWII movie and the other categories are quite empty for being in an R rated film. For older kids, this is a movie they should see.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Serling is a borderline alcoholic and often is seen drinking or drunk when confronted with his inner demons of guilt and memories of what happened.
  • Monfriez drinks hard liquor while driving with Serling in his car.
  • Illario drinks a beer and admits that he's a heroin addict and says that he shoots up between his toes.
  • BLOOD/ GORE
  • A dead, charred body is seen on top of a tank.
  • There are several views of the wounded and bloody Medivac co-pilot. In addition, he leaves a bloody smear on the windshield.
  • Blood soaks through Walden's clothes after she's been shot in the stomach.
  • Blood runs down from Walden's nose and mouth after she's been hit by an explosive.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Soldiers give different accounts of what really happened with Captain Walden, and some of them lie about the events to cover themselves.
  • The Army covers up the fact that Serling was responsible for deaths by friendly fire.
  • General Hershberg doesn't want the truth in the Walden case. He just wants it over as quickly as possible and he removes Serling from the case when he won't give the General anything but the truth.
  • Monfriez refers to Walden with the derogatory slang term for female genitals (the "c" word).
  • Monfriez, when asked about Walden's whereabouts, says she's dead and thus ensures her death from the Napalm attack. (He said she was dead because he had earlier shot her and she stated that when they got through this, there would be a full investigation).
  • FRIGHTENING/TENSE SCENES
  • All of the battle scenes listed in "Violence" are quite suspenseful (although some of that wears off after repeated views of the same scene played out differently each time).
  • Monfriez stops his car on some train tracks with Serling inside. He forces Serling out, and realizing he'll never overcome his guilt, drives down the tracks and collides with an oncoming train.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Guns/Machine guns/Tanks/Missiles/Napalm: All used during the war scenes to inflict damage or death on the enemy forces.
  • Handgun: Held on Serling by Monfriez after he asks too many questions. Moments later, it's used to make Serling get out of the car that Monfriez then takes on his suicide mission.
  • Handgun/Machine gun: Held by Monfriez and Walden on each other. Walden fires when she sees an enemy soldier. Monfriez, thinking she's fired at him, shoots Walden.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Just the phrase "shut up" and the fact that Serling is seen (just once) chewing tobacco.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 23 "f" words (1 with the prefix "mother"), 21 "s" words, 9 "ass" words, 7 hells, 4 damns, 1 slang term for female genitals (the "c" word), and 22 uses of "Jesus," "Christ," or a combination, 4 uses of "God damn," 4 uses of "Oh my God," and 1 use of "By God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Monfriez is seen for just a brief moment wearing only his jock strap.
  • SMOKING
  • Llario smokes several cigarettes.
  • Serling is seen (just once) putting some chewing tobacco into his mouth.
  • A boxing instructor smokes a cigar.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • There are several scenes where Serling's guilt begins to put a heavy strain on his marriage. His wife wants to help, but this is a battle he must fight alone. Still, she gives him an ultimatum. She states that she and kids will be there for him, but only for a short while longer.
  • Although there isn't a great deal of focus on this, it should be mentioned. Walden has a surviving daughter who's too young to really know what's happened to her mom, and Serling visits her surviving parents, but this isn't a bad family scene.
  • There is a brief mention that Walden and her husband divorced after just one year of marriage.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Friendly fire.
  • Which story was correct (some kids may miss what really happened after seeing all of the versions).
  • VIOLENCE
  • There is a tank battle with tanks exploding, and soldiers being killed. Serling moves to the top of a tank and fires the machine gun, mowing down many Iraqi soldiers. An Iraqi soldier is seen on fire. In the heat of the battle, and with limited visibility, Serling orders a tank to be fired upon and it turns out to be one of his own, killing everyone inside.
  • There are many battle scenes shown from the Walden incident. Several are seen repeatedly but they consist of:
  • A helicopter is shot down and its crew finds themselves with a tank approaching and soldiers firing machine guns at them. The tank fires and hits the helicopter, killing four men inside. The survivors fire back but are pinned down.
  • A Medivac copter, piloted by Walden, arrives and drops a fuel cell on the tank which is then lit and the enemy tank explodes. In the meantime that copter is hit and crashes to the ground.
  • The Medivac crew is trapped and the soldiers fire machine guns back at the approaching Iraqi soldiers who are firing at them.
  • During the night, more Iraqi soldiers approach and fire on the crew. Many Iraqi's are killed, and Walden and Monfriez are wounded.
  • The next morning, the reinforcements arrive and many Iraqi's are killed by missiles and machine gun fire. Walden is killed (in many different ways according to all of the different accounts), but in the end is killed by a napalm strafing run after having been shot and wounded by Monfriez.
  • Serling has several dreams and/or flashbacks where he sees his friend burning inside the damaged tank.
  • Monfriez pulls out his pistol and holds it on Serling after Serling gets too close to the truth. Monfriez orders Serling out of the car and then drives it down some train tracks and collides with an oncoming train. His car explodes.
  • Monfriez and Walden hold their guns on each other. Monfriez wants to flee, while Walden wants to stay put. It's a standoff until Walden fires when she sees an enemy soldier. Monfriez, thinking she's fired at him, shoots Walden.



  • Reviewed July 12, 1996

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [American Made] [Battle of the Sexes] [Flatliners] [A Question of Faith] [Stronger]

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