A shrewd, complex film about war's proverbial first casualty. During the Gulf War, Lt. Col. Nat Serling (Denzel Washington) -- a career officer who prizes honor above all virtues -- mistakenly ordered an attack on one of his own tanks. Instead of censure, he got a medal

from a military establishment hell-bent on keeping its snafus under wraps. Assigned to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Capt. Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), the first woman ever nominated for the Medal of Honor for courage in combat, Serling won't do the rubber-stamp job everyone

wants. Instead, he uncovers disturbing discrepancies in the accounts of Walden's battlefield performance. The model here is RASHOMON, right down to the fact that even Walden gets her posthumous say. Writer Patrick Sheane Duncan and director Edward Zwick ( GLORY) make canny use of war movie

conventions to craft a sober, intelligent drama with surprising integrity. Washington's inherent gravity anchors his troubled and troublesome character, and Ryan, whom we'd all but written off as a perpetual pom-pom girl, takes on an atypical role and acquits herself, well, honorably.