By Rick Bentley
‘Taking Chance’ is not just another war movie; it’s one you won’t forget.
Movies are memorable because of mighty moments. These are the scenes that pull us so close to the story we feel like we have crossed that invisible threshold that normally relegates us to being merely observers.
These mighty moments are at their best when they are so strong that it is not a matter of whether we aren’t sure if we will remember them or not. It is whether we know that we can never forget them.
Such a moment comes in the powerful HBO film “Taking Chance.” The made-for-cable movie airs at 8 tonight.
Kevin Bacon plays Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a career military man who volunteers to accompany the body of a dead Marine, 19-year-old Lance Corp. Chance Phelps, as he is returned to his family for burial.
This is a duty that is not taken lightly. Every inch of the journey is designed to pay the deepest respect to the fallen hero. For those who travel with the coffin, this is one of the most important missions of their military careers.
The screenplay was written by the real Strobl, who is a retired Marine, and Ross Katz. It is based on the journal Strobl penned. Because this movie is based on real events, each scene rings with a deep honesty. That’s particularly true in the scene that is the defining moment of this journey.
As part of the transportation, Strobl stands vigil while the body is unloaded from the airplane. Slowly, civilians — from the passengers on the airplane to airport workers — stop. Nothing is said. The message comes through their faces: a look of respect and sadness.
It’s the moment that keeps this from being just another war movie and burns a message deep into our hearts.
“Taking Chance” is a story about the preciousness and fragile nature of life. It is about the honor and devotion a person can feel that is so electric they are willing to sacrifice that life.
Director Ross Katz shows in this one scene that it doesn’t take big explosions or complicated words to create memorable film moments.
Bacon turns in the performance of his career. His Strobl is a man who understands duty but must live with what he believes is a failing in his personality.
He opts to accept a safe assignment on the homefront rather than joining his fellow Marines in Iraq.