Taking Chance

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  • Based on the true experiences of Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl, who wrote eloquently of them in a widely circulated 2004 article, Taking Chance is a profoundly emotional look at the military rituals taken to honor its war dead, as represented by a fallen Marine killed in Iraq, Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. Working as a strategic analyst at Marine Corps Base Quantico in VA, Lt. Col. Strobl (Kevin Baco

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Based on the true experiences of Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl, who wrote eloquently of them in a widely circulated 2004 article, Taking Chance is a profoundly emotional look at the military rituals taken to honor its war dead, as represented by a fallen Marine killed in Iraq, Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. Working as a strategic analyst at Marine Corps Base Quantico in VA, Lt. Col. Strobl (Kevin Bacon) learns that Phelps had once lived in his hometown, and volunteers to escort… More >>

Taking Chance

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5 Comments
  1. Other reviewers have covered the story line: Lt. Col. Mike Strobl, a Marine paper pusher (he labels himself in almost those words) sees the name of a PFC killed in Iraq. The casualty is from Strobl’s home town so he feels compelled to take the deceased Marine home.

    One item, though, that I don’t think anyone elsed covered: Strobl nearly “confronts” his superiors as to whether it’s appropriate that still more die in Iraq. They tell him in essence that he’s not in a position to challenge the policy makers. It’s an important element of the film to remember.

    The film certainly stimulates various emotions. Kevin Bacon–whose acting is excellent as usual in this film–in a little add-on comments on the specific “rituals” used while the remains of the person are carried back to his or her home. Some of those rituals are almost enough to make the watcher stand up and express respect for the dead. The music too evokes emotions throughout the film. As does the photography. The scene just after Strobl/Bacon salutes Chance at the cemetery, with the sky just about ready to break into a storm, is particularly stimulating.

    What has become almost routine in films these days is time warps, i.e., scenes in which a character is reflecting on what has happened already so the scene switches to the past, then back to the present. One scene to which the camera returns frequently is at the mortuary in Dover where the staff is cleaning the remains. The scene is done in slow motion leading to a macabre effect, almost eerie. But what it made me think of is how much is done for show. The script indicates that Chance Phelps’ funeral will be closed casket as he’s not exactly presentable. But his body has been cleaned, his uniform is perfect. The situation in which he was killed was horrible–it was the real world. But what’s important is the show… Just something to think about.

    So, why my “title?” We tend to glorify war, the military in general these days. I don’t say that’s an American phenomenon. I think everyone does it. We use words like “hero” toward almost anyone killed in battle; we glorify them, and the “battles” in which they lost their lives. When their remains return home, we glorify them all the more. At the VFW hall in Phelps’ town, there’s a “God Bless Chance Phelps” sign. It seems just about every male character in the film is former or present military. A fleet of vehicles end up accompanying the remains on the highway, and all turn on their lights, take off their hats, and become a funeral procession.

    Is that not why such wars continue?

    For the record, NO: I’m not degrading Chance Phelps. I’m not complaining about Mike Strobl. I’m not challenging the sorrow of Phelps’ parents. I feel as much compassion for them as the next guy, maybe more. But, like Lt. Col. Strobl toward the beginning of the film, perhaps we should all be challenging our being in the situation that killed PFC Phelps–and the many, many others who’re dying there. Perhaps we should be shedding more tears, that those many may have died in vain. And that could be perhaps our worst fear!

    And perhaps those tears, instead of leading us to romanticize the condition of those who died, should prod us to prevent others from dying, tomorrow or a millenium from now.

    Overall, it’s a pretty good film. And there is SOME feel of the futility of it all. But, again, we need to question rather than glorify the conditions which lead to the death of so many of our countrymen–and women–these days.

    Rating: 4 / 5

  2. Yes, of course, very moving and skilfully underplayed.

    Compare to the vicious “Johnny got his gun”, Dalton Trumbo; On the beach; – also dead ends.

    The cynic (me) must say: OK, do we churn out one of these after evey major conflict? You could save money – just the scenes involving new aircraft (and cars), and the equipment in the one battle scene, would need to be re-shot.

    What’s missing? (Yes, I know–if you want to make a different movie, go ahead and do it). It is any hint of how inter-nation war could somehow be stopped in the future… My pet solution would be to permanently lower the boom on all evil (i.e. non-Western) countries threatening to develop Nuclear weapons, through invasion, inspection and control. This was suggested to Truman in 1945. Both he and Churchill decided otherwise (in Churchill’s case with lingering regret). And, thereafter, to decide all inter-nation arguments thru arbitration (imposed by the good guys of course). Having missed the 1945 opportunity, we would now have to get Russia to see reason first, of course.

    Don’t waste film & our time wallowing in self-pity .. suggest something.

    Rating: 4 / 5

  3. Even though I didn’t care for this film, I should add that I fully respect those who have served in our armed forces and that I mean no disrespect to them or to their sacrifices. Having said that, this movie impressed me as a flat (but morbid and depressing) semi-documentary with little or no suspense or dramatic value. The cast and the scenery all seemed to emanate from a squeaky clean Norman Rockwell painting–multiracial, cross-generational, photogenic, super-respectful and solemn. Maybe if they had introduced some outside tension–such as romantic temptation or virulent anti-war protestors it would have made for a more compelling movie. On the other hand, I can readily see how the film as produced would appeal to Military families and those who have lost loved ones to combat.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  4. pretty well done. glossed over some of the finer points of the story but a good movie overall.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  5. Everyone who had anything to do with starting the Iraq and Afganistan wars should be forced to watch this over and over and over. This is a wonderful depiction of what can and does happen to many of our young men and women who are “just following orders.” Although, those who sent them into harm’s way had no respect for their lives, those who bring them home have tremendous respect for them.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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