Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 5 Stars
Captain Karen Walden is a uniquely courageous person - dedicated to her country, her soldiers, and her family. She bravely engages Iraqi troops in an effort to rescue the surviving crew of a downed Blackhawk helicopter, and later defends herself and her own crew against the enemy. Captain Walden loyally protects her wounded co-pilot, even when the others are ready to abandon him. She displays undeniable leadership and embodies the very essence of sacrifice, up until the very end of her life.
Gender Roles - Men: 4 Stars
Lieutenant Colonel Serling is a brave man who is fighting a losing battle with memories and addiction. Although he’s a strong and accomplished soldier, he’s far from perfect, and the burden of one terrible mistake is enough to expose how fragile and human even the toughest of men can be. He still feels the need to mask his pain from his friends, and even his family, but by the end of the film he finds the strength to grieve out loud, without fear or shame. Serling also dedicates the best of himself to serving Captain Walden’s memory, in spite of his own pain, and without concern or prejudice for the fact that she’s a woman.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 4 Stars
For most of the film, Captain Walden is dressed in combat fatigues. She’s a soldier, like the rest of her crew, covered in dirt and blood and fighting for survival. We’re given only brief glimpses of Karen in other roles - wearing her dress uniform as she’s graduating into the officers’ corps or at home blowing bubbles with her young daughter. But in every scene, whatever the occasion, the focus is on the strength and soul of the woman who died serving her country. The casual comments that she was “butch” or her lack of femininity don’t degrade who she was or the sacrifice that she made.
Plot: 5 Stars
Few women in film are as courageous or heroic as Captain Karen Walden. Her dedication to her mission and to her crew is on par with male characters in similar movies who risk their lives to protect their soldiers. What’s impressive about this film is that it doesn’t turn Captain Walden into a hero by pretending that she is physically stronger or faster than the men she trains with. She's a helicopter pilot who knows how to handle a weapon, both skills that any female soldier can learn with training. But her best asset, the thing that sets her apart from her crew, is her ability to stay calm under pressure. To make life and death decisions and to maintain order despite the fact that her crew is terrified and on the verge of mutiny.
Supporting Characters: 3.5 Stars
Courage Under Fire contains a number of memorable supporting characters. Serling’s wife Meredith, though somewhat pigeon-holed into the role of a stalwart military wife, exercises what control she can over her corroding family. She tries to protect her children from being hurt by their distant father, while at the same time recognizing the pain that he’s in and urging him to open up to her when she sees that he’s breaking.
Similarly, Walden’s surviving crewmembers, Monfriez and Ilario, alternate between being funny and confident, to emotionally exposed and confused. Both men deftly illustrate the complicated aftershock of war and the potential fallout from expecting young men to never be afraid, or admit that they’ve made a mistake.
Room for Improvement:
Character Development: 1.5 Stars
Unfortunately, Captain Karen Walden has already been killed in battle when the film opens, and everything we know about her is experienced through flashbacks and the memories of those who knew her. Those memories are enough to tell us she was loyal and brave, but don't give us much insight into the sort of person she was off the battlefield. We don't know how she motivated her crew before that final flight or what comforting words she shared with her daughter before she went off to war. We don't even know what she planned to do with her life when the war was over. Her story is certainly compelling enough as is, but the lack of character development further confirms that Serling's struggle for redemption, rather than Walden's heroic death, is the real heart of this film.
Lieutenant Colonel Serling is wrestling with the fallout from a deadly mishap that took place during Desert Storm. As he awaits the results of a difficult investigation, he is assigned to review the circumstances behind the nomination of a heroic Medevac pilot for the Medal of Honor. Captain Karen Walden will be the first female recipient of the prestigious award, if Lieutenant Colonel Serling can verify her bravery and leadership through the accounts of survivors. But conflicting versions of events begin to surface, confusing the story and challenging Serling to dig deeper for the truth.
Kelly is a labor law