Friday, February 12, 2010

HBO scores one for Peace

Although HBO has given us some questionable boons such as ROME and, in my minority opinion, THE SOPRANOS and ENTOURAGE, they deserve high praise for their film TAKING CHANCE, which recently won a Golden Globe for Kevin Bacon as Best Actor in a TV film or series. Bacon plays a career Marine who saw little action in Desert Storm and settled down to a life as a numbers cruncher and family man in the service. The latter is established quickly and poignantly in scenes with his wife and young children. The otherwise button down Marine is a happy, giving family man once he crosses the threshold of home. But he happens to scan the latest casualties from Iraq and something strikes him deeply. Within days he has volunteered to accompany the body of a young marine to his home in Wyoming.

TAKING CHANCE could have been another sentimental take on the suffering of families or a open attack on the Bush policies of war. Instead, it artfully shows what the government did not show until the end of the last decade: those body boxes draped with American flags. One telling shot shows a number of them being loaded onto a giant plane headed for America. Other scenes show the preparation of the body, the careful cleaning and repairing, the perfect uniform replacing the savaged, bloody one, and much more. These scenes are intercut through the action of the film, as Bacon's character grows more anxious and intense. He begins to notice the respect that everyone involved in the journey shows him and Chance. From encounters on his plane to conversations with air mechanics to funeral home directors, his disciplined salute and attention to his duty draws people to Chance and what he has sacrificed. In a strong scene near the end of the film, the Marine almost breaks down as he admits his disappointment that he did not serve in Iraq, but the Korean veteran he confides in and Chance's family show that he has done a great service. Bacon plays this Marine with steely reserve but also with feeling. The look on his face at the funeral makes a strong statement about this boy's death. The film ends (spoiler alert) with photos of the real Chance, from his maturity at 20 down through the years of his boyhood. He is blond, smiling, athletic, filled with fun. TAKING CHANCE has made its point. Both my wife and I were fighting back the tears and the anger.

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