Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan star in Persian Gulf War mystery ‘Courage Under Fire.’

Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan star in Persian Gulf War mystery ‘Courage Under Fire.’ – Cover Story

Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan star in the gripping Persian Gulf War mystery Courage Under Fire, to be released nationwide on

The powerful military drama takes a thought-provoking look at the many aspects of courage, in the field of combat a away from the field of combat.

Washington gives a passionate and fiery portrayal as Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling, a firm, self-assured Army tank commander who dedicates himself to a relentless pursuit of the truth when he is ordered to conduct a crucial investigation to find out if a female Medevac pilot, Capt. Karen Walden portrayed by Meg Ryan, is truly worthy of receiving the Medal of Honor. The only problem is that she is to be awarded the honor posthumously, and Serling’s only way of finding out how courageous she really was is to interview her crew, whose conflicting stories cause him to suspect a cover-up.

Walden, a divorced mother raising her young daughter, is a tough female pilot who holds steadfast to her belief of fighting to save the lives of others while battling in the male-dominated world of the Army. Killed during a rescue mission in the Persian Gulf War, the depth of Walden’s character as a serious pilot and loving mother is learned only through a series of flashbacks as Serling probes her death.

While investigating Walden’s candidacy for the award, Serling becomes entangled in nightmares about his own tragic dilemma in the Gulf. During a late night attack at Al Bathra, Serling unknowingly gives the order to fire at a T54 tank he believes is an enemy. He is appalled when he discovers it was actually one of his own tanks, killing several of his own men, including his best friend.

Serling’s solid world comes tumbling down after the mishap of “friendly fire.” Ordered to return home to Washington, D.C., where he is reassigned to a desk job at the Pentagon (checking Walden’s candidacy for the Medal of Honor), Serling has no idea that his journey into battle has only just begun.

Decorated in honors for bravery Serling, a man of high moral integrity, withdraws into a dark world of alcoholism when he is forced to keep quiet and speak untruthfully, going against his anxious desire to tell the truth about the disaster. In fact, his superior and mentor, General Hershberg, played by Michael Moriarity, downplays the incident, offering Serling continued support, despite the fact that a reporter, Tony Gaitner, played by Scott Glenn, is asking questions.

“He was in denial, and I think (alcohol) became that warm, fuzzy place for him,” explains Washington about his character. “He was a liar. He wasn’t allowed to tell the truth … I don’t think he realized what he was becoming.”

Meanwhile, the nightmares of the Gulf coupled with the investigation take their toll on Serling so severely that it affects his life at home. Regina Taylor, who stars on the hip urban cop drama “New York Undercover,” portrays Meredith, Serling’s wife and the mother of his children. She doesn’t understand what’s happening to her husband. Instead of turning to her for comfort, he turns to alcohol, yet she continues to stand by his side, struggling to make sense of her husband’s deep troubles concerning his friendly fire incident and his investigation of Capt. Walden.

“When you finally learn about her nobility, it’s only noble because she’s very human,” adds Ryan about her role as Walden. Not very female or male, but she’s very human.”

A far stretch from her roles in Top Gun, Sleepless in Seattle and When A Man Loves A Woman, she admits that this was perhaps one of her most challenging roles.

“The real work for me in this movie was trying to wrap my head around a military kind of mentality. It’s so far away from anything I’ve ever thought about … I was always wrestling with it. I could never get an absolute feeling about it,” says Ryan.

Filmed in the cities of Austin and El Paso, TX, just prior to the fifth anniversary of the Gulf War, the film also stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Bronson Pinchot, Seth Gilliam and Matt Damen.

After completing the filming of the realistic mystery, Washington observes that he now has a greater understanding and respect for those in the military.

He notes about the research he did prior to working on the film: “The one thing I kept finding out about these men and women is that they’re not just cardboard Rambos. I heard the word integrity used more than ever before. I think we civilians can learn a lot about people in the armed services.”

A Twentieth Century Fox presentation, the explosive film was directed by Edward Zwick, who directed Washington to an Oscar-winning performance in the critically acclaimed 1989 movie Glory. Courage Under Fire reunites the two once more.

“We wanted to work together again. We’re friends. I trust Ed. He took care of me the first time,” says Washington.

Zwick notes the movie is about more than just portraying the realities of war. He asserts, “It’s not only about a woman in combat. The film examines the different facets of duty and courage. We also take a look at the notion of comradeship and sacrifice. And how that immediately and absolutely crosses the lines of gender.”

Washington, who gave a riveting performance as a second-in-command submarine officer who stopped the launching of nuclear missiles in last years military drama Crimson Tide, reveals that he prepared for the role of Serling by attending tending the National Training Center in Northern California. There he learned to practice tank maneuvers and fire the M1A1 Abrams tank, where he, in a military term, “qualified.”

“I actually outshot some of their soldiers,” laughs Washington.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Johnson Publishing Co.

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