Sunday, January 31, 2010

Taking Chance

Taking Chance was a surprisingly moving film about what happens in the aftermath of war tragedy. Kevin Bacon portrays US Marine Lieutenant Corporal Michael Strobl, who has volunteered to accompany the remains of a young Marine killed in the Iraq war, Chance Phelps, back to Phelps's hometown in Wyoming.

What makes the emotions of this movie work is that it avoids the saccharine emotion-tugs prone to movies of its type; it is not of a piece, which is precisely what makes it work. Based on a true story, it is not a film that takes an evident "side" or makes moral judgments about the war itself, and so viewers' readings of it will certainly be wide and different. Bacon's steady performance is one of his best, perhaps since Murder in the First. And the film far outpaces its nearest recent comparison, the Woody Harrelson-helmed The Messenger, which somehow seemed more contrived than Taking Chance.

Taking Chance's concentration on the mechanical processes of the return of a war-dead soldier holds a magnifying glass to the heavy tolls that war, patriotism, responsibility, and duty exact on the individual who must bear them. Beyond the glare of star-spangled soldiery and military steel, there are the soft hearts of family and friends, and a nation that continues to ask itself, "Is it really worth it?"