Monday, December 30, 2013

Gripping and Powerful "Taking Chance" from HBO

I just watched this small. HBO feature film from 2009 and found it to be one of the most moving, heart wrenching movie experiences I've had in years, as well as one of the most profound statements on the cost of war not so much in dollars, but in human lives. It was impossible to keep my eyes dry almost from the start.

Kevin Bacon stars as real-life U.S. Marine Lieutenant Michael Strobl, who frustrated both personally and professionally with the mounting casualties of the war effort in 2004, volunteers to serve as an escort for 19 year old PFC Chance Phelps.

Lt. Strobl begins his long journey with this young Marine he's never met and knows nothing of, after the boy has been cleaned, dressed and readied for his final journey home to Montana. Just about the last words he hears before setting off are "These remains are not recommended for viewing."

What happens along the way is a trip remarkable in its nobility and gentility - the kindness of strangers - most somehow immediately aware of what is taking place and it is devastating both in its simplicity and in its ultimate tragedy.

Oddly enough, this gentle film spurred a lot of controversy with both conservative and liberal, audiences - one side finding it an indictment against the war and a slap in the face of the military and the other as military propaganda - an attempt to soften the blow of the lives of so many fallen young Americans. I felt the film took neither side, merely showed the emotional journey one highly decorated Marine Lieutenant took to show his respect for a fallen brother. What makes this even more moving is knowing the story of Lt. Strobl and PFC Phelps is true - but sadly, universal enough so as to be the story of any fallen warrior.

With few words to speak (indeed the film has not a lot of dialogue) Kevin Bacon gives one of his finest performances, his face, voice and gestures capturing everything Lt. Strobl was feeling.