Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Taking Chance - Mini-review

My husband and I attended Sundance as part of a package, and one of the films they picked for us was Taking Chance with Kevin Bacon. I read the description, and frankly I wasn't looking forward to it because I just didn't want to see another movie about the Iraq war. This film ended up being the film that moved me the most out of all 12 films we saw at the festival. This is a movie that everyone should see.

Taking Chance is based on the true story of Lt. Col. Mike Strobl, who volunteered to escort the body of Marine Chance Phelps who died in Iraq. You'd think this would be the most depressing film, but seeing all the kindnesses along the way was so heartwarming. The military have not allowed any pictures of the flag draped coffins, and the public has no idea all the care each fallen soldier is given, and how they are escorted every step of the way home to their families. At least I didn't know, and I was very glad to learn about it.

You don't see the Chance Phelp's face until the very end when they show home video of him. That's when I really lost it. I had been tearing up before, but I started sobbing then. It was cathartic. I feel like I have been numbed by all the reports from Iraq: another roadside bomb, the casualty totals, a constant drip, drip of bad news that ceased to catch my attention. This film made me face the human cost. The director Ross Katz said that he wanted Chance Phelps to be like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier -- he is every life lost over there.

We got to talk to Lt. Col. Strobl (maroon sweater on right) after the film, and he told us how it came to be that HBO approached him about making the film. He had to write a report when he returned from his escort duty. He thought some of his fellow Marines might be interested in what it was like, so he emailed it to 8 friends. They then emailed it to 10 of their friends and it became a viral sensation on the internet. He realized how far it had gone when people started sending it back to him! Someone at HBO saw the email story, and approached him about making a film out of the story.

Kevin Bacon just has that carriage of a Marine. This is the third one he's played, including his role in the recent Frost/Nixon. He's not given much dialog and he's just fantastic, as he usually is. We were lucky that he came to the Q&A at our screening. Ross Katz has been a producer on films like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, and Taking Chance is his directorial debut, and he co-wrote the screenplay with Mike Strobl. HBO will air this film starting Feb. 21st. Trust me. You need to see this film. Three and a half stars and a very strong recommendation. I went up and thanked the director and Mike Strobl for making this film as it's a true tribute to Chance Phelps and every other fallen soldier.

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