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The Gulf War is something that Americans watched every evening on the nightly news. We saw our military might drive the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in neat little segments, then as quickly as it started- the war was over. The media coverage ended with the war, and the attention of the American public turned to the next late breaking story. Like any good war movie, COURAGE UNDER FIRE ($30) depicts the fighting in the gulf in more vivid than any news camera could, plus it's intriguing story deals with the aftermath of the confrontation. Denzel Washington stars as Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling, an officer who is having difficulty dealing with a tragic mistake during a battle that cost the lives of some of the men in his unit. Reassigned to desk duty after the war, Serling finds himself a position to place a rubber stamp on a piece of high profile PR work for the military that would award a Medal of Honor for bravery in combat to its first female recipient. Serling is assigned to investigate the actions of Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) during the battle that cost her life.

While the initial investigation bears out Captain Walden's worthiness, inconsistencies in the accounts of several soldiers force Serling to dig deeper to get at the truth. Although under pressure from the "higher ups" to finish his probe quickly, Serling is determined to do his duty and make sure that his actions honor of all the men and woman who lost their lives during combat in the gulf. Although basically a war movie wrapped in mystery, COURAGE UNDER FIRE has a strong emotional center thanks to the first rate performances of both Washington and Ryan (who appears throughout the film in flashback). Edward Zwick's direction is tight and he stages the battle sequences very effectively. COURAGE UNDER FIRE also features a solid supporting cast that includes Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty, Matt Damon, Bronson Pinchot, Seth Gilliam, Regina Taylor, Zeljko Ivanek and Scott Glenn.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made COURAGE UNDER FIRE available on DVD in a THX certified wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. Framed at 1.85:1, COURAGE UNDER FIRE features a superb transfer that produces a wonderfully crisp image with marvelous detail. Colors are strongly saturated, yet the flesh tones are completely natural. Intense red lighting is used during one of the combat sequenced and it is solidly reproduced without any signs of breakup. Additionally, there is no chromatic distortion or smearing anywhere in the picture. Blacks are deep and inky, plus the image boasts excellent shadow detail and depth. The film element used for the transfer is virtually pristine, although a bit of grain does crop up from time to time. Overall, another excellent transfer from Fox. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed on this finely authored dual layer DVD.

Like the visual quality, the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is a complete winner as well. The combat scenes are aggressively mixed, making use of the entire 360 sound field with roaring choppers, blaring gunfire and ground shaking explosions. Split surround effects are very well deployed, in case my previous comment didn't make that fact clear. There is a good balance between the front and the rear channels, with the realistic panning of sounds in all directions. Dialogue reproduction is clean, crisp and fully intelligible. The bass channel is strong and forceful, adding the necessary kick to all of the film's sound effects. James Horner's score is nicely mixed and maintains its full musical integrity. A DTS 5.1 channel soundtrack is also offered on the DVD and it adds another layer of resolution to an already excellent sound mix. While the DTS version of COURAGE UNDER FIRE has stronger bass, as well as slightly better defined sound effects and music, one shouldn't feel short changed with the Dolby Digital track. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, plus animation and sound have been utilized to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Director Edward Zwick is featured on a running audio commentary that imparts a lot of detail, which makes his talk quite interesting for fans of this particular movie. Also included on the DVD is a short featurette on the making of COURAGE UNDER FIRE. This is pretty much a straight PR piece, but is worth a few minutes of your time because it includes interviews with the cast and crew. Three theatrical trailers and three TV spots fill out the disc's supplements.

COURAGE UNDER FIRE is a solid piece of entertainment that has been given a first class presentation on DVD by Fox. If you are a fan, or even remotely interested in the film- this DVD is well worth picking up.


Courage Under Fire



DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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