MEN OF HONOR: A heroic life gets a suitably dramatic retelling in George Tillman Jr.'s docudrama, MEN OF HONOR, based on the true story of Carl Brashear, the first African American to become a United States Navy master diver. The film employs the conventional yet pleasurable against-all-odds narrative. Carl Brashear (played with noble grace by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is the son of a degraded Southern sharecropper. Determined to succeed in the vocation he believes he was born for, Brashear enlists in the navy. Once there, however, the determined young man finds his dream inaccessible--thwarted by the forces of institutional and personal racism. When, after a long and difficult struggle, he is finally allowed into diving school, he finds himself under the authority of Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro), a former master diver whose injured lung has left him permanently above water. Sunday becomes simultaneously Brashear's most vicious adversary and his most loyal supporter, motivating him to succeed. The story that follows is a highly emotional wave of ups and downs: Brashear overcomes one barrier only to be met by the next, even larger one. MEN OF HONOR is at times heartbreaking and painful to watch, but the triumphant ending makes for a deeply satisfying payoff.
BROKEN ARROW: "Broken arrow" is a military term for a nuclear warhead that has been stolen--and villainous Air Force pilot Vic Deakins (John Travolta) has done just that. In fact, he's pilfered TWO bombs in an effort to extract a huge amount of cash from the government in exchange for their safe return. However, there's a fly in the ambitious thief's ointment: Riley Hale (Christian Slater), Vic's former copilot, whom Vic thought he had killed when he robbed the bombs. Helping Riley is gutsy female Park Ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis). Together, the two use all the artillery, ammo, vehicles, and gumption they can muster as they risk life and limb to thwart Vic and his vile gang. Hong Kong action specialist John Woo propels the film through trains, Humvees, exploding helicopters, and more.
COURAGE UNDER FIRE: Following the 1991 Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is assigned to review the background of the late Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), who has been posthumously nominated for a medal of honor. While investigating Walden's candidacy, Serling is forced to face his own disillusionment and guilt surrounding the war. As he begins the interviewing process, he uncovers several inconsistencies in the stories told by the late pilot's crew. The three officers, who may or may not have been saved by the captain's actions, all give drastically different accounts of the events leading up to Walden's death. Ilario (Matt Damon) paints Walden as an unselfish, courageous hero, while the surly Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips) describes her as a crybaby and a coward. The third soldier, Altameyer (Seth Gilliam), lies dying in an army hospital, mumbling guilty confessions in a medicated haze. Similar to the storytelling technique used in Akira Kurosawa's RASHOMON, director Edward Zwick's COURAGE UNDER FIRE features each officer's account of the fateful incident reenacted onscreen, offering wildly diverse portrayals of Walden. Meg Ryan shines in a role that demands she play one character a multitude of ways. As Serling pieces together the radically different tales of combat, he uncovers the painful truth and simultaneously faces his own pent-up guilt regarding the war.