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Edward Zwick
Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Matt Damon
Writing Credits:
Patrick Sheane Duncan

Despondent about a deadly mistake he made, a US Army officer investigates a female chopper commander's worthiness for the Medal of Honor.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$12,501,586 on 1986 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 1/23/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Edward Zwick
• Trivia Track
• Trailers


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Courage Under Fire [Blu-Ray] (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 22, 2018)

Actors hate to be typecast and often will go to extremes to prove their range. Comedians play serious dramatic roles, hard-edged performers eye light fare, and so on, often with catastrophic results.

In 1996’s Courage Under Fire, Meg Ryan - aka “America’s sweetheart” - clearly tried to broaden her spectrum. For this film, she played a military officer/helicopter pilot of questionable valor.

Not only did the role require her to adopt a Southern accent, but also it also made her take on a gritty, commanding tone miles away from the fluffy and cutesy material that comprises the bulk of her work.

Ryan can’t quite pull off the accent, as there’s too much Hee Haw in her intonations. However, much to my surprise, she actually gets the job done in her compelling performance as the deceased Captain Karen Walden.

Yes, Karen’s dead in the “real-time” parts of the film, but Ryan appears during ample flashbacks, for Fire proceeds as an investigation. Walden is the first woman to receive a nomination for the Medal of Honor, and booze-chugging, battle-rattled Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) must check out the validity of her actions during the Gulf War. Serling had his own problems during that conflict, and this task falls to him as part of an effort to get him back to normal.

At first, the award is regarded as a done-deal, so Serling’s report is needed just to add the final seal of approval. However, we start to learn that the participants in the events can’t quite agree on what happened and things weren’t quite as simple as they initially seemed. Against opposition of others who just want the sublime photo op of the medal ceremony on TV, Serling pursues the truth of the Walden affair while he fights his own demons.

Little about Courage Under Fire surprises me. The notion that Serling would find controversy about Walden’s actions seems virtually inevitable, and the manner in which the tale explores matters follows a very predictable path.

The film also uses a conventional method to look into Serling’s own problems. From minute one, we know that something will eventually shed clear light on both of these situations, so we just need to pick through the clues and try to figure it out along with the characters.

Despite the easily-anticipated manner in which the story progresses, I think that the execution makes it compelling. Most movies fail to present much that can be called new, so it’s how they tell their tales that distinguish them, and Fire creates an intriguing and well-played piece.

As he also demonstrated in The Siege, director Ed Zwick has a talent for presenting American ideals in a moving and stimulating manner. Granted, the issues he covers in these films - essentially truth and freedom - aren’t unique to the US, but they are deeply ingrained in the American experience, for better or for worse.

Such topics can be easily abused and depicted in mushy, rah-rah ways, but somehow Zwick gets to what’s right about those ideals and cleanly depicts what’s right about the American motif.

As such, I find myself able to tolerate and even enjoy some of Zwick’s melodramatic excesses more than I normally would. Maybe it’s just when he involves Denzel Washington that these areas are rendered compelling; after all, the ‘Zel also stars in The Siege. Whatever the case may be, it’s rare that I feel a connection with these American ideals during movies, but Zwick’s get to me.

Courage Under Fire remains a flawed piece. Its climax steals shamelessly from Platoon, and there’s little about it that stands out from a million other flicks.

However, that smidgen of uniqueness makes it worth viewing. It’s predictable but it’s well-executed and emotionally satisfying. Any movie that gets me to care about a Meg Ryan character must have something going for it.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+

Courage Under Fire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A fairly early Blu-ray, the image showed its age.

Sharpness manifested mediocre quality, with an image that varied in terms of delineation. Close-ups showed reasonable delineation, but a lot of the movie tended to seem a bit on the mushy side.

I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, but light edge haloes impacted the presentation. Though I saw no print flaws, compression seemed lackluster and left the movie with a somewhat “digital” look.

Like sharpness, colors seemed bland. Some of this stemmed from the green/brown palette choices, but I still thought the hues felt somewhat dull and flat.

Blacks tended to appear too dark and inky, while shadows leaned toward the dense side of the street. While this remained a watchable presentation, it lacked many positives.

I felt more impressed with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio, as much of the film presented a broad and engaging soundfield. Not surprisingly, it was the battle scenes that gave the mix its best dimensionality.

At those times, the track really became lively as it used all five channels actively. The sounds of war surrounded me in a realistic and natural manner.

Audio seemed well-integrated among the different speakers, and sounds blended neatly from channel to channel. For instance, an early tank roll showed the smoothness with which effects moved.

Audio quality seemed similarly strong. Dialogue came across as natural and accurate with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.

Music was bright and dynamic and clearly reproduced the film’s score at all times. Effects were also terrific and they often packed a substantial punch.

From the deep bass heard in explosions or the rumbling of tanks to the hard slam of mortar fire, all of the effects seemed clear and crisp at all times. Ultimately, the mix offered a strong auditory experience.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? The lossless audio boasted a bit more range and oomph, but visuals showed little improvement, as the mushiness of the Blu-ray meant it didn’t do much to top the old DVD. I’d pick the Blu-ray over the DVD but it’s not exactly a slam-dunk.

Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and we find the same audio commentary as that release. Director Edward Zwick provides a running, screen-specific look at story/characters and history/background behind these elements, cinematography, cast and performances, action/stunts, music, sets and locations.

While Zwick touches on a good variety of topics, he tends to make this a lackluster chat. He goes MIA too often and never gets a head of steam, so this becomes a decent but mediocre piece.

New to the Blu-ray, a Trivia Track can accompany the film. This gives us information about the Gulf War and related military elements as well as some filmmaking tidbits. These give us a nice array of factoids that add to the experience.

The disc ends with trailers for Courage, Flight of the Phoenix, Men of Honor, The Omen (2006) and X-Men: The Last Stand. The Blu-ray drops a short featurette from the DVD.

When Courage Under Fire hit theaters in 1996, I skipped it because it looked like jingoistic nonsense. However, it turns out that Fire is a generally stimulating and moving piece that succeeds on most fronts. The Blu-ray offers excellent audio along with decent supplements and flawed visuals. I like the movie but the Blu-ray disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 4
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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