(Air Date: Week Of 7/10/96)
"They're" talking Oscars for "Courage Under Fire" by which I mean to say that the publicists over at 20th Century Fox are beating studio tom-toms to ensure that this week's release racks up a few nominations next February. With very slightly disowned vanity, its director Edward Zwick speaks as if all the hoopla means nada to him, adding that the timing of the film's premiere has nothing at all to do with the political conventions this week. Hey, he knows he has to say that and I know he has to say that, but with all due respect to the radio and television reviewers whose assessments are splashed on the opening week adverts, "Courage Under Fire" is NO masterpiece.
It is a long string of old and new cliches, e.g.: Military lifers tend to drink too much. Military generals tend to cover up military mishaps. Military wives in traditional roles tend to resent women with military clout, especially in life-and-death combat situations. Military men tend to resent women with military clout, especially in life-and-death combat situations. These cliches, and more are played out against the backdrop of a military investigation into the wisdom of giving a posthumous Congressional Medal Of Honour to Captain Karen Walden (played in flashbacks by Meg Ryan).
Lt. Col. Nathaniel Serling (stoically played by Denzel Washington) was involved in a friendly fire incident in the Persian Gulf War. He is then chosen to review Walden's worthiness for the award and as a result of his search for the truth, he finds peace. For everyone interested in the plot, that's about it. If the prospect clutches at your heartstrings, enjoy yourself. My own heartstrings remained stubbornly unclutched through the closing credits. Maybe I have slightly more faith in human nature than the filmmakers did, maybe the steady onslaught of trite dialogue wore me down or maybe it was simply the narrative's total lack of surprise or suspense. But "Courage Under Fire" is the dullest movie I have seen all year long and I hope that nothing else turns up in the next six months to equal its record for predictability. Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty, Scott Glenn, Bronson Pinchot and Sean Astin are among the actors struggling to breathe some life into "Courage Under File" opening nationally this week.
Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan
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