Synopsis: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Tom Aldredge, Sharon Washington, Nicholas Art
Director: Ross Katz
Running Length: 77 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: While recognizing the profound impact the Iraq War has had on this generation, at the time Taking Chance was first broadcast on HBO, I was in the middle of my “no more war movies” ban. I was just full up with everything to do with war and needed a respite from reminders on film. Then Bacon had to go and win a Golden Globe for his work and I knew that eventually I’d have to take in this true story of a Marine Lt. Colonel that volunteers to take the body of a fallen solider back to his hometown for burial. What this film does and says about the war in 77 solid minutes is profound and quite moving.
Viewed now, it’s quite right that Bacon should be honored for the truthful and restrained work he does here. We’ve all seen the movies where the past demons within are exorcised by some experience in the present. Not here. The motivations of Bacon’s character are in line with his wanting to participate in an important part of the war…to accompany a soldier’s remains home. Without hitting us over the head with the information, we see that Bacon is a devoted family man and solider trying to do the right thing.
The movie showcases a process many Americans aren’t privy to – we see from the inside the respect and honor these deceased men and women are treated with from the moment they fall until they return home to their final resting place. Care is taken every step of the way to ensure dignity and honor are maintained and the scenes that depict the preparation of the body are sensitive but all the same quite hard to watch without developing a lump in your throat.
While not totally in the category of a road movie…one could probably look at Taking Chance as putting a new spin on it. The part about road movies that has always appealed to me are the people our leads meet along the way. Once people find out who Bacon’s character is, where he’s heading and with what a distinct change in the way characters look and react is vividly depicted. It’s a way of showing that we are all affected by the war and that each loss is not only felt by the family and friends of those who knew the fallen but by Americans as a whole. Their loss is our loss and I give huge credit to those involved with Taking Chance for showing this journey without making it a Hallmark card. Bacon’s performance was justifiably honored and the movie deserves a medal of honor as well.
As a former combat Marine veteran of Viet Nam, I have to admit not only was I very deeply touched by the film’s complete accuracy and genuine portrayal of the treatment of our Combat Fallen, but Mr. Bacon’s powerfully humble (and obviously well-reseaerched) job of Lt. Colonel Strobl’s emotional escorting of a true American hero to his home and family left me speechless, proud, sad to have survived when so many I served with did not, and very teary eyed throuhout most of the movie. This is a must see masterpiece work, and I will be sharing it with many friends and family members for years to come.
(former) Corporal R. L. Kinsner, U.S.M.C.