HBO continues to be one of the leaders in original programming on television. Adding to their recent collection of excellent movies, such as Recount, they bring Taking Chance to TV. The movie is too small for the big screen, but it’s too big for the small screen, but somehow it fits perfect on HBO.
Kevin Bacon (The Woodsman) gives quite possibly the best performance of his career in Taking Chance. He stars as Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a marine who has left the line of combat for office work. While he enjoys the freedom of seeing his family everyday, he feels he should be in Iraq fighting next to the troops. He regularly wakes up in the middle of the night to check the casualty list out of the guilt he feels. One night Strobl comes across a name on the list from his old home town, and decides to do something Lieutenants usually don’t do. He offers his service as an escort for the fallen soldier, named Chance Phelps, on his journey back home. What follows is a truly emotional film with no political agenda on the war. The movie takes us through the entire process of a causality’s trip to the grave. We see everything, from the flight back to the states, to the cleaning of the body, to the reaction of the family as Phelps arrives home. It’s riveting to see this little known subject come to fruition. Clocking in at a perfect 85 minutes, the film feels neither slow or rushed. It is a film that deserves to be watched by everyone who enjoys the freedoms we as American’s have.
Bacon has very little dialogue throughout the film, but his face says more than any words could say. There’s a scene where he opens Phelps’s casket for the first time, and a single tear streams down his face. That one tear sums up all of the feelings Strobl has about the boy he never met, but would come to know after his death. Based on the journal, Taking Chance, by the real life Strobl, Chance comes off as a heartfelt personal experience for anyone touched by those who have served our country.
Directed, written, and produced by Ross Katz, Chance is one of the best made for television movies in years. I must admit, I’m not a fan of T.V. movies, however I am fan of Taking Chance. It’s performances, subject matter, and relevance to today’s world make this a top notch movie experience. At the end of the movie Strobl says “I never knew Chance Phelps, but today I miss him,” and we do too.