Taking Chance

"Excellent"

Taking Chance Review


Military reverence has long been one of the classic movie themes, to the point that it is now one of the most frequently mishandled subjects. It is difficult to make a soldier movie that avoids formulaic sentimentality and traditional heroism to the sound of a bugle call. Even more difficult is to make a military film that uncovers something most audiences have never seen, to open viewers up to the intimate unknown. Taking Chance successfully does both; it dissects minute military details that take place far away from the battlefield and exposes us to procedures that both fascinate and enlighten. It is quiet, engaging, and surprisingly affecting.

The film is unique in its keen attention to the minutiae of the U.S. military's body transfer process. Taking Chance is almost exclusively interested in the power of ambiguous observation. Sure, there is a story with a beginning, middle, and end, but narrative isn't necessarily the film's foremost preoccupation; this is a movie that thrives on intimate characterization and quiet scrutiny.

Taking Chance is based on true events as they were recorded in the journal of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl as he escorted the body of a young fallen soldier to his family's home in Wyoming. In the film, Kevin Bacon plays Strobl, a quiet, respectful, unassuming family man who feels as if he has never truly fulfilled his call of duty. After joining the Marines as a teenager and completing a brief tour of duty in Operation Desert Storm, Strobl settled down with his family and has been working at a desk as an analyst ever since. His decisions were purposeful -- "I got used to being with my wife and kids," he tells a veteran on his journey -- but have left him with the feeling that he never did enough for his country.

Strobl spends countless nights perusing Marine casualty lists, possibly worried that he will find a name to mourn. What he finds instead is the name of a fallen Private First Class whom he has never met, but who comes from Strobl's own hometown. Perhaps out of recognition, perhaps out of guilt, perhaps out of dutiful curiosity, Strobl volunteers to escort PFC Chance Phelps back home to his family. His journey unfolds in scenes of quiet power, from expected moments of sadness to unexpected bonds with fellow soldiers, and through Strobl's eyes we witness a unique and evocative human experience.

Taking Chance marks the screenwriting and directorial debut of Ross Katz, who has worked as a producer for most of the last decade. It is clear that he has wisely taken several cues from his most frequent collaborator, Sofia Coppola. His film is muted in its emotion and acute in its attention to small human details. Katz, like Coppola, is fascinated in the beauty and pain of the face -- he studies Strobl in nearly every shot, following him from subtle emotion to subtle emotion. The entire film is a study of details, from the cleaning and preparing of a deceased officer's body to the reverential customs of airport transportation to Strobl's unyielding commitment to assuring that he never, for any reason, lets his soldier out of his sight. Bacon is the perfect actor to fill this role -- his eyes convey pain and reflection on the level of the best actors working today, and in this role his delicate, ever-so-understated emotional journey is the film's most powerful element.

Death is one of the most fearful and intriguing aspects of humanity, but the oft-unseen details of what happens immediately after death occurs -- how the body is treated, how the caretakers deal with unenviable preparations -- is rarely observed with the sort of respect and intimacy as it is in this film. Taking Chance provides a refreshing new perspective on military films -- there are no violent battles, no patriotic speeches, no solemn overtures about heroism and sacrifice. We simply observe all of the rituals, some reverential, some cold and insensitive, that make up this process that goes on several times a day, but which Michael Strobl -- and many of us in the audience -- are only witnessing for the first time. This is a film about respect and dignity, both in death and in life. And we hope that we may be treated with the same level of careful attention.

Sober Bacon.



Taking Chance

Facts and Figures

Run time: 77 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 21st February 2009

Production compaines: Motion Picture Corporation of America

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Lori Keith Douglas

Starring: as LtCol Mike Strobl, Tom Aldredge as Charlie Fitts, Nicholas Art as Nate Strobl, as Chris Phelps, Guy Boyd as Gary Hargrove, Guy Boyd as Robert Orndoff, as Tom Garrett, as Kelley Phelps

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Zoolander 2 Movie Review

Zoolander 2 Movie Review

With virtually the same blend of wit and idiocy as the 2001 original, this fashion-scene...

A Bigger Splash Movie Review

A Bigger Splash Movie Review

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) reteams with Tilda Swinton for this fresh, tricky...

Deadpool Movie Review

Deadpool Movie Review

Both the filmmakers and the characters on-screen are so pleased with themselves that this might...

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

Advertisement
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.