I’m not a fan of movies about current wars. I think it’s hard to make an objective movie when you’re still in the middle of a confrontation. So even though it involves the war in Iraq, I decided to see Taking Chance by director Ross Katz because the story involves my home state of Wyoming. (Interestingly, Katz has been involved with two Wyoming-based movies at Sundance. The Laramie Project premiered in Salt Lake City several years ago.)
This war movie avoided many pitfalls by not making political statements. Taking Chance is based on the story of Lt. Col. Michael R. Stroble (ret.). He volunteered to escort the remains of 19-year-old Chance Phelps who was killed while serving in Iraq. Stroble travels with body from the national morgue to Dubois, Wyoming.
Taking Chance is a powerful film no matter how you feel about the war. It’s a reminder that the cost of war is high, a fact that’s easy to forget when the horrors of the war touch very few of us. The film inspires strong emotions right from the beginning—and those emotions never let up. A constant hum of sniffles and muffled sobs filled the theater. A lot of people could have used a tissue or two.
The movie is a tribute to the beauty of the traditions of the American military. It’s also an insider’s look at military traditions that are seldom seen by civilians. I learned a lot from this movie. One woman in the audience admitted that her son had been killed and Iraq and took great comfort seeing the respect with which fallen soldiers are handled.
The handsome performance of Kevin Bacon in the lead role is powerful. Bacon never over performs. He simply let’s the story unfold around him. Bacon was at the screening as was the director and Stroble. Stroble is strikingly handsome, articulate, and soft spoken. This is one of the few times the real person was more attractive than the idealized Hollywood star. It was no surprise that Stroble was the author of such a sensitive story.
The film isn’t perfect. There are moments when it becomes overly sentimental. But it’s easy to overlook the flaws thanks to the beautiful production values, the well-told story, and the strong performances.