Freedom is not free.
Never released in theaters (released directly through HBO by HBO Films), Taking Chance is based on the journal entries of US Marine Colonel Michael R. Strobl as posted in 2004:
Taking Chance tells the story of Colonel Strobl’s experience as he volunteers to escort home the remains of PFC Chance Phelps, who was killed in military action In Iraq. Colonel Strobl’s experience and story are unfamiliar to many because of sheer ignorance—the film serves to educate us to a fundamental aspect of our country’s foundation and life blood. It reminds us of the sanctity of life, with special honor for those whose lives were given in the service of others.
I first saw the film on HBO in early 2009, shortly after it was released. I immediately sat my children down and (gently) forced them to watch. Although it is a slow-moving movie, even the teenagers remember the experience vividly a decade later.
Reading reviews of the movie ten years later, I was shocked to see the divide between the opinions of some of the critics—this movie address subject matter that would predictably cause some to automatically retreat into the ideologies of their respective political camps.
Regardless of political ideology or agenda, any honest, unbiased, open minded, non-divisive, peace-loving, war-hating person SHOULD agree that the subject matter of this film is untouchable, and even sacred. (And if it’s not sacred to you, perhaps it’s time for you to mosey on. There’s a chance we’re not going to get along well.) The film took no political stance—and shouldn’t have to.
Kevin Bacon’s role as Colonel Strobl may be his most subdued role in his career. Knowing Kevin Bacon as well as I do (I have a legitimate Bacon number of 3 because of a guy that lives in my neighborhood, so…), I was surprised at his performance and how much it changed my perspective of his abilities as an actor. Taking Chance is my favorite Kevin Bacon movie, and it is my favorite performance by him.
While much of the criticism of the movie is directed at the filming style, pacing, lack of plot, and other aesthetic aspects of filming, much of the praise of the movie is directed at the SAME elements. Anybody expecting typical military movie-style action, explosions, and intrigue will be immediately disarmed by the slow-moving and introspective “action” of Taking Chance.
Although the movie was slow-moving, reverent, and subdued, it was profoundly effective at allowing the viewer’s mind to catch up with the full impact of what was happening to Colonel Strobl as the full impact of his duties caught up with him.
Over the years, I’ve had various first-hand experiences with tragedy, funerals, and final preparations, but before Taking Chance, I was unaware of protocols for the transportation home of the remains of military personnel. The (sometimes uncomfortably) intimate experience of watching Colonel Strobl as he learns and executes his duties—he was previously aware of protocols at ONLY a basic level—becomes a tender examination of the sacrifice made by PFC Chance Phelps (and the countless sacrificed lives of other volunteer protectors).
HBO deserves great credit for publishing Taking Chance with the careful tenderness they used. Movies like Taking Chance tell stories that can change our world for the better.
This movie should be mandatory consumption for all politicians, teenagers, complainers, social engineers, and others who seek to be divisive and destructive—we (as a society) need to get back to our roots, examine our core values, and ensure that we are not distracted by things that don’t matter.