Saturday, May 29, 2010

Taking Chance


I missed this movie some how or another. Adam Baldwin (Twitter @adamsbaldwin) tweeted about it, so I looked it up and lo and behold it was on this evening. Which is apropos considering this is the Memorial Day weekend, and the movie is about a member of the military escorting a soldier killed in action home.

Taking Chance is named because the escorted soldier's name is Chance Phelps - so Lt. Col. Michael Strobl (portrayed by Kevin Bacon), the escort officer, is taking chance home. It is also about Bacon's character taking chances with his self perceived reason for being - justification for his existence. From IMDB:
In April, 2004, casualties mount in Iraq. At Quantico, choices focus on increasing troop strength or only replacing casualties. Lt. Col. Mike Strobl crunches numbers. Stung by his superior's rejection of his recommendation because he lacks recent combat experience, Strobl volunteers for escort duty, accompanying the remains Pfc. Chance Phelps, killed at 19. From Dover to Philadelphia by hearse, from there to Minneapolis and on to Billings by plane, and then by car to Phelps' Wyoming home - person after person pays respects. Kind words, small gifts, and gratitude are given Strobl to deliver to the family on this soul-searching journey. What are his own discoveries?
Bacon lets us see a Marine constraining his emotions through a granite face that slips very little - but enough to see the doubt and pain he suffers through the trip.

From Wikipedia:
Taking Chance received generally favorable reviews, and currently holds a 76/100 rating on Metacritic.[3]. One review from The Baltimore Sun, said that it "... is one of the most eloquent and socially conscious films the premium cable channel has ever presented," and USA Today, said "A small, almost perfectly realized gem of a movie, Taking Chance is also precisely the kind of movie that TV should be making." On the other end is Slant Magazine, saying "Instead of well-drawn characters or real human drama, we are presented with a military procedural on burial traditions. The film desperately wants the viewer to shed tears for its fallen hero without giving a single dramatic reason to do so."

The film was the most-watched HBO original in five years, with over two million viewers on the opening night, and more than 5.5 million on re-airings. Critics often attribute this success to its apolitical nature, not directly depicting nor offering an opinion of the Iraq War.[4]

The film received two significant awards: Bacon received a Golden Globe Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television" with one other nomination, as well as an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie" with nine other nominations.

I strenuously disagree with the Slant review. We take away what we invest in a movie, and the review (I looked it up and read it) seems very anti-war. I get that- I can understand it. Perhaps I'm the slanted reviewer, because the movie seemed to me to go out of it's way to be apolitical.

No single dramatic moment? The passengers on the plane scene failed to move the reviewer? Or the other escort who was bringing his brother home? The impromptu funeral procession (that was the scene that finally got to me)? Or the elderly man who chews out the Lt. Col. for his doubts as to whether or not he is a valid Marine anymore? This cat would probably think Ol' Yeller's death was too smarmy for his tastes as well.

TCM is on a Memorial Day war move marathon this weekend, but I think this little gem stole their thunder. Highly recommended. I am humbled at our veterans' sacrifices once again.


Mo K said...

We had HBO at the time when "Taking Chance" premiered, and I was so glad of that. This is a wonderful film and tribute. I thought Bacon was very well cast in this one.
I agree with you, Jeffro, that it is perfect for Memorial Day weekend.
God bless those who have served, have lost their lives, and are currently serving to protect our freedoms.

ptg said...

I'll take your recommend, Jeffro. I always thought Kevin Bacon was a good actor.