Sunday, February 15, 2009
Remembering Lance Corporal Chance Phelps
The following article discusses the upcoming HBO movie “Taking Chance”, the moving story of the return of the remains of American warrior Lance Corporal Phelps to his family. This will be broadcast next Saturday and you can see more about the movie at http://www.hbo.com/films/takingchance/.
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Moving salute to the fallen
Orlando Sentinel Columnist
February 15, 2009
Concise and deeply moving, Taking Chance tells a true story that has been repeated often but rarely depicted.
The HBO movie, which premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday, explains how the military treats war dead with great care and respect. The film also dramatizes how the public often responds to military sacrifices: Airline workers and passengers pause to pay tribute. Drivers put on their lights. Children watch with awe.
Taking Chance presents these scenes with simplicity and understatement. Running only 78 minutes, the film doesn't linger over emotional moments. There's no need to embellish when a tearful reservations worker thanks a Marine for his service or a flight attendant gives a small cross to show her regard.
That restraint deepens this tribute to Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, a 19-year-old Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2004. The movie is based on Lt. Col. Michael Strobl's journal of how he escorted Phelps' body home to Wyoming.
Strobl and director Ross Katz wrote the screenplay. They make a couple of missteps. They invent a scene of Strobl watching Phelps' remains overnight in an airport cargo area. They also briefly take the focus off Phelps and let Strobl open up about his guilt about not fighting in Iraq. Good thing an old veteran shuts up Strobl.
Otherwise, as Strobl, lean Kevin Bacon looks every inch a Marine and responds with a disciplined, poignant performance. Most effective in the brief supporting roles are Tom Wopat and Ann Dowd as Phelps' parents, Gordon Clapp as a pilot and Julie White as a straight-talking colonel.
The movie mostly steers clear of politics, although a driver wonders what we're doing in Iraq. Mainly, Taking Chance educates the public on the humbling, difficult process of escorting the bodies home. It's not an easy lesson, but it's powerfully worthwhile. The movie ends with photos and home movies of Phelps.
Hal Boedeker can be reached at 407-420-5756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Charles M. Grist