MAN ON FIRE: John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a lost soul. A former government operative, he has become an alcoholic nomad, searching for inspiration and redemption. An old friend (Christopher Walken) who lives in Mexico gets Creasy a job as a bodyguard for nine-year-old Lupita "Pita" Ramos (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of a Mexican man named Samuel (Marc Anthony) and his American wife, Lisa (Radha Mitchell). Creasy's primary job is to protect Pita from the kidnapping attempts that are an increasing menace to the children of Mexico City's wealthy. A man of few words and many secrets, Creasy initially balks at Pita's attempts to befriend him, but soon a bond grows between the precocious child and this lonely man who is tormented by his past. When Pita is kidnapped despite Creasy's valiant attempts to save her, he will do anything to bring all of those involved to justice. His fury unravels a net of almost unimaginable corruption and greed in the process. Director Tony Scott (TOP GUN, CRIMSON TIDE) builds the relationship between Creasy and Pita in the first half of the film in order to justify Creasy's violent actions in the latter half, and in the process he does a fine job of keeping the film's tension consistently high.
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.
THE SIEGE: When the U.S. military abducts a Muslim leader, New York City becomes the target of several terrorist attacks in this gripping political thriller ripped from the newspaper headlines. Denzel Washington stars as Anthony "Hub" Hubbard, the head of the FBI terrorism task force who is charge of investigating the bombings. Ironically, Hub's partner, Frank Haddad (Tony Shalhoub), is Arab-American and must fight for his family's rights as the citizens of New York become increasingly paranoid about the Arab-American population. Elise Kraft (Annette Bening) is an undercover CIA official and Middle East expert who is also investigating the terrorist attacks and joins Hub and Frank as they search for the terrorists. As Hub, Elise, and Frank work to uncover the source of the terrorism, the city erupts in escalating madness, spiraling out of control until the government sends in General William Devereaux (Bruce Willis), who takes over and declares martial law. Ultimately, the government seizes the male Arab-American population of New York in makeshift internment camps. This relevant and cautionary thriller examines the real dilemma of how a democratic society can uphold the rights of its citizens while under military protection. Director Edward Zwick's film features excellent performances from an all-star cast and includes real footage of President Clinton addressing the problem of terrorism.