Courage Under Fire Reviews
The cast is A grade, however, the movie is a tad too long.
If you like Denzel movies this is one of his earlier flicks and he always displays top shelf performances.
This is not for everyone no kiddies allowed and if you like war movies you would like this one.
Saw this on 29/9/15
It's ultimate result is predictable, but the paths towards the same are not. Though this is the weakest Edward Zwick film after Love and other drugs, this military film benefits from the fine performances delivered by Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan and Matt Damon.
An investigative drama, the film obviously offers plenty of exposition as it goes alone, but not necessarily about Denzel Washington's leading Nathaniel Serling character, whose immediate development is lacking, and whose gradual characterization is sometimes thinned down for the sake of focusing on Meg Ryan's Karen Walden character's story, which is itself improvably fleshed out, despite the film's possessing a runtime of almost two hours that it achieves partly through dragging. Even as one of Edward Zwick's more minimalist dramas, this film gets to be aimless in its struggling to find things to do, and I'd be a little more willing to accept that if the film didn't have a tendency to run to familiar material to keep busy with. This is actually a fairly unique war drama in a lot of ways, so when uniqueness lapses, it's all the more glaring, for although the film is never truly trite, there are formulaic occasions, many of which were kind of bland to begin with in their consequentiality. Really, whether they be familiar or refreshing, many aspects to this intimate war drama are a little too minimalist to be all that dramatically juicy or tense, and no matter how limited, the natural shortcomings stand, and Zwick struggles to compensate. Zwick has always been a sentimental storyteller, and no matter how genuine his efforts are in a lot of ways, when he gets heavy-handed with, say, James Horner's emotive score or some slightly melodramatic dialogue and visuals, subtlety lapses, ambitiously, if you will, cheesing up the dramatically worthy affair. This and other issues are light, but they still stand and are recurrent, threatening the reward value of drama which is somewhat minimalist in scale. Of course, the film's strengths ultimately prevail, being themselves limited, but prominent enough to endear pretty thoroughly, even if they're sometimes abused.
James Horner, in his third and final collaboration with Edward Zwick, turns in a formulaic and sentimental score that is often misused to establish a tonal sting to the histrionics, but more often used effectively, with a lovely and sometimes subtly intense tastefulness that works very effectively when it works in the film's tonal context. Just as he gets to be sentimental with his plays on scoring, Zwick often hits hard with his directorial plays, and not just on Horner's efforts, entertaining with a certain subtle snap to his plays with Steven Rosenblum's editing, and thrilling with a grand staging of gripping war combat sequences, rounded out with some dramatic tension. He has his overblown moments, as I've said time and again, but as a dramatic storyteller, Zwick is effective more often than not, using thoughtful pacing and heavy visuals in a manner that is audacious and genuine, establishing tension and, at times, resonance. Zwick is inspired, at least more often than not, and such inspiration meets ambition enough to compensate for the drama's overblown attributes, although it's not as though you can ever blame Zwick for all the ambition. For a war drama, the film dealing with an investigation of what truly occurred in the heat of a controversial battle, and with a soldier's struggle to bring his mind back home, is minimalist in scale, but worthy as portrait on the struggle to seek truth and peace of mind, with thoughtful direction to endear you to slightly undercooked, but worthy characters, though not quite as much as the performers. The film is intimate with its characters, of course, and it certainly feels that way, thanks to the inspired performances within a cast from which Matt Damon and Lou Diamond Phillips stand out with their intense portrayal of men with dark secrets, just as Meg Ryan impresses in her layered portrayal of a military woman who may or may not have been as heroic as they boast, and Denzel Washington carries the film with his trademark subdued charisma, punctuated by a dramatic intensity that sells Nathaniel Serling's struggle with his duties and personal demons. This and certain other performances define the heart of this military drama, and no matter how dramatically flimsy the final product is at times, it entertains, bites and resonates enough to compel and reward as a portrait on war and humanity.
In conclusion, when not underdeveloped, storytelling is draggy, and when not refreshingly genuine, the film slips in conventions and histrionics which bring the narrative's minimalism to light to threaten the final product's reward value, secured by James Horner's tasteful scoring, Edward Zwick's stylish and thoughtful direction, and many a solid performance, - particularly by Denzel Washington - which secure "Courage Under Fire" as a generally tense and moving dramatic portrait on a search for peace within one's own humanity.
3/5 - Good