Courage Under Fire (1996) Review

Nat Serling is a US Army Officer who is dealing with a deadly mistake he made and is given an investigation to check how worthy Karen Walden a commander is for the Medal of Honour after she died in combat, pushing his own guilt to the limits.


The film opens as we see Serling making some tough decisions in pressing times as he orders fires to be shot and in this he actually has his team shoot a friendly. Killing those on board the tank, the panic that this brought and the guilt from his decision would be a theme we would see unfold throughout the film. In this event he ended up killing a very good friend and solider he had worked alongside for many years and this was never going to be easy to come to terms with.

An investigation took place and he basically had to say that he just had no way of being sure that it was not an enemy shooting at them. Quite tough to watch and then think about really when in a war zone with shots being fired how do you fully tell who is on your side in the dark?

The story of Karen Walden is told as Serling interviews the different soldiers who were part of her team and it is very easy to see just how messed up they have become after surviving that ordeal. The helicopter crashing and they basically became a very easy target for the enemy who were quickly surrounding them, with limited ammo left and time running out as they waited to be rescued tempers and emotions flared. Ilario was one of them who took it the worst as he was working as a medic and since that incident was very clear he turned to drugs and substance abuse with his dramatic weight lost. Monfriez had something to hide and his story did not match the others that Serling had heard about Walden.

It certainly gives you things to think about when it comes to high pressure events occurring and the different memories people have from them and that they might not remember it in the same way. Which is a little bit shocking really, especially as they were attempting to prove Walden did everything she could have for her crew and those around her. But everything was not as it first seemed and the events happening that night were brought about in different ways and we get to see these stories.

Doing this really pushes Serling to be open and honest about the event he was involved with and he takes the courage to actually speak to the parents of the man and friend his order had killed and I thought that was some fantastic development through the film, showing that listening to those stories and what Walden had to go through he needed to be honest for everyone including himself.

I have watched this film quite a few times over the years and in all honesty I feel it is a very underrated war based film. It takes on a different approach and has some top quality performances. Denzel Washington is as powerful as ever and plays the conflicted officer in the best possible manner. Meg Ryan is a pretty kick ass character really and it is a shame we didn’t get to see more of her backstory before that fateful night. Lou Diamond Phillips is very good as well, but the scene stealer is well and truly Matt Damon. Seeing this appearance change and the amount of weight he lost for this role gets to me every single time as he looks totally different, although it was done in a very dangerous way and it took him two years to get his body back to normal again as his blood sugar had dropped so low, extreme method acting for the role at a time when he was rather unknown!

2 thoughts on “Courage Under Fire (1996) Review

  1. I keep seeing this film pop up on Disney Star, a film that piqued my interest. After reading your review, I’m definitely going to give it a watch at some point. I had no idea that Matt Damon was in it too. I love it when he pops up in films unexpectedly, like his role in Interstellar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think this was one of those films that I just assumed I had already reviewed before as I have seen it a few times. Hopefully it will get more viewers from Disney Star.

      Liked by 1 person

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