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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Taking Chance
Taking Chance
HBO // Unrated // February 21, 2009
Review by Griffin Glass | posted March 6, 2009 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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I consider myself a war-film aficionado. They're my favorite genre of film, and I have over 60 in my personal collection. I've seen plenty of firefights and battles, as well as daring escapes, and heroic rescues. However, I've never seen a film that delves so deeply into what happens to our fallen soldiers after they leave the battlefield then I have in HBO's latest entry, "Taking Chance".

"Taking Chance" is based on the true story of LtCol Mike Strobl (played by Kevin Bacon) as he escorts the body of PFC Chance Pehlps to his hometown, after he was killed during a patrol in the Iraq War. Strobl is a numbers cruncher for the Marines, and recommends where to allocate recourses depending on where the most U.S. casualties occur at. Everyday he sees the names of young men and women who have been killed in the war. Upon seeing Phelps's name on one of his lists, he volunteers to escort his body, since Phelps was from the same town as him.

Bacon's portrayal of Strobl is that of a career Marine, who has seen and done many horrible things in his lifetime. Strobl comes across as unemotional at times, which isn't so much his personality, but rather a wall he puts up to hide his true feelings. Bacon brings dignity and respect to the screen and embodies the value and valor that comes with being a Marine.

Along the way, we meet many interesting characters; some who seem personally touched by the death of Phelps, and others who walk right on by. In an extremely touching scene, Bacon oversees Phelps's body being unloaded from a plane, and in full view of the airport, he notices only two small children are watching. There is then a cut to Bacon's face that left me to chilled to the bone. It was an expression of such hurt and sadness, not only because of his duty at hand, but because of the public's seemingly uncaring attitude towards their armed forces.

Later on, as Strobl watches over Phelps' coffin in an airport warehouse overnight, "so he won't be alone" we sense for the first time that Bacon is starting to drop his tough facade. In a long, dialogue less take, Bacon sits down and stares at the coffin. Tears begin to fill his eyes. The camera is fixated upon Bacon's face. We the viewers are left wondering what Bacon could possibly be thinking. In a time of big Hollywood productions that try to fill every second of screen time with some kind of action, it's nice to let the camera lie still and watch the actor work his magic.

When Strobl finally reaches his destination of Phelps's hometown and delivers his personal belongings to his family, the film begins to feel like a documentary. The actors who make up the family sell their grief so well, it is at times hard to watch.

"Taking Chance" is the debut of director Ross Katz, who has produced such films as "Lost in Translation" and "In the Bedroom". I'm looking forward to seeing much more of him in the future. His interpretation of the source material, along with his respect for it, led "Taking Chance" to overcome the usual trappings of made for TV films.

Much like Akira Kurosawa's "Ikiru", "Taking Chance" delves into what happens to those left behind after someone dies. Family members can only imagine of what Phelps was thinking of before he died. What his plans for the future were. What he thought of as he lay awake at night. "Taking Chance" is a somber reminder of the war still at hand in Iraq, and although the tale it tells is sad, it's even more tragic that it's been told thousands of times before.








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