Courage Under Fire
Watching director Edward Zwick try to end "Courage Under Fire" is kind of like standing in a cemetery several days after a funeral. You findyourself asking, over and over again, "Why am I still here?" Isn't it just like Hollywood to beat us over the head with catharsis until we don't know up from down?
What do you know about this film before you even take a seat? At least two things: You know the mystery surrounding the death of Capt. Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) will be resolved and the person investigating giving her the Medal of Honor, Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington), will solve his own personal crisis. These are absolute guarantees.
So why is it that Edward Zwick and most other filmmakers in Hollywood think that we're not capable of understanding a tragic moment when we see it? Or a genuinely emotional moment, like when Lt. Serling, toward the end of the film, solves the problem we already know he's going to solve? You'll stand up to start your way out of the theater four or five times before the credits actually roll. First it's the sappy music. Then it's the awarding of the medal of honor. Then it's Serling's resolution with his family. Then with himself. Then, finally, mercifully, the warm sun shines on his face. By this point, you want to yell, "Jesus, Ed, why don't you just poke me with something!?"
Denouement or electroshock therapy? You be the judge.
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