Courage Under Fire

Predictably, the first Hollywood studio feature about the gulf massacre (1996) keeps the Iraqi victims as faceless as they were in the news. But in most other respects this is a good, solid, intelligent drama about the ambiguities of what does and doesn’t constitute courage under firedirected by Edward Zwick (Glory) from a script by Patrick Sheane Duncan (Mr. Holland’s Opus) with the sort of sincerity and relative seriousness one associates with John Frankenheimer’s 50s television work and some of his 60s pictures. Denzel Washington very effectively plays a lieutenant colonel who in a moment of confusion orders his tank battalion to fire on American soldiers, killing several of his own men. Plagued by guilt, he’s assigned to review the candidacy of a slain captain (Meg Ryan) for the Medal of Honor, and encounters conflicting versions of her behavior from various witnesses. What emerges may not be quite as cut-and-dried as the movie’s structure sometimes implies. With Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty, Matt Damon, and Seth Gilliam. (JR)

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