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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

trailer break: ‘Taking Chance’

Take a break from work: watch a movie trailer…


Oh man, I’m getting a lump in my throat and tears welling in my eyes just from this trailer.

No pictures of coffins coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s what the men who sent our soldiers into harm’s way decreed. They thought they could make us forget that Americans were dying in their wars of choice. But they couldn’t keep it a secret — they couldn’t hide it from everyone. This film is based on the personal journal of the high-ranking officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, USMC (played by Kevin Bacon here), who accompanied home the body of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, USMC, who was killed in action in Iraq. Assuming what we see here, in the trailer alone, is true, then there was clearly no hiding the stark reality from anyone, photos or no, and clearly none of that “not supporting the troops” bullshit that was invented by the right-wing to discredit opposition to the wars.

It strikes me as wonderfully, deliciously ironic, too, that the policy of no-photos has only pushed a story like this one into a realm that is far more poignant and symbolic than it might otherwise have been, as if pent-up emotion that we might have slowly expended if we’d been seeing those coffins arrive back in the U.S. is now concentrated into this one movie.

Take that, you bastards, and good riddance to you.

Taking Chance debuts at the Sundance Film Festival this month, and then premieres on HBO on February 21 at 8pm Eastern. (At a guess, I’d say this will go straight to DVD in the U.K.)



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  • Anne-Kari

    Oh boy. I’m already in tears.

  • Montie Burchett

    Ms. Johanson,

    As a former Army Infantry Captain (Desert Storm era), I was as overcome as you when I first saw this trailer. But, I was very disappointed to see your comments politicizing the whole thing. the policy of “no photos” was put forth by the military services in an attempt to maintain a respectful and reverant attitude toward those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who gave their all for their country and countrymen.

    What the military feared was exactly what you demonstrated with your comments. Whether the administration is conservative or liberal matters not to the members of our military who have always, and will always continue to put their lives on the line to allow you the freedom to spout off so crudely and inappropriately.

    Most conservatives “get it” and just don’t understand why liberals such as yourself can’t come to grips with what “supporting the troops” really means”. Let me assure you, it wasn’t people like you who stopped what they were doing and paid respect to that marine’s body as it passed by.

  • S

    Wow. I’m already in tears.

  • MaryAnn

    the policy of “no photos” was put forth by the military services in an attempt to maintain a respectful and reverant attitude toward those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who gave their all for their country and countrymen.

    That sounds real good, but the U.S. government learned its lesson from Vietnam, and knew that there’d be an uproar if we had regular reminders of how many of our soldiers were dying.

    Let me assure you, it wasn’t people like you who stopped what they were doing and paid respect to that marine’s body as it passed by.

    How do you know that? How do you know what people were thinking? And do you honestly imagine that I enjoy seeing young men and women dying? Is that truly and genuinely what you think?

  • JoshB

    Let me assure you, it wasn’t people like you who stopped what they were doing and paid respect

    Oh wasn’t it? Are you a mind reader now?

    Well, I suppose you’re sort of right. I don’t feel proud, or reverent, or whatever the hell else you want to guilt me into feeling, when I see that trailer. I feel depressed.

    I don’t want to pay my respect to dead soldiers. I want that they not have died in the first place. I suppose by your estimate wishing they were alive is unsupportive? That’s not what “supporting the troops really means”?

    Really, I want to see what cognitive dissonant logical gymnastics it takes you to justify such a statement.

  • count me among those who don’t understand how “supporting our troops” comes under the heading watching them die and bowing my head sort of thing… i want to support my troops by giving them decent wages, decent housing, decent education opportunities and continued mental, physical and medical support when they have fulfilled their tours of duty. i want to support my troops by making certain they have proper equipment, proper training, and proper food and shelter wherever they’re deployed. and i want to support them by having them fight to defend their country, not support some vague and nebulous agenda in countries where they are not welcome, and are not appreciated. and most of all, i want to support them by having as few of them die as may be absolutely necessary.

    photos of an airfield full of coffins might remind people that these are the young people of our country; our supposed future. subjecting them to endless tours and practically poverty standards of living is not respect. wearing a flag pin in your lapel is not respect. being certain that they fight in a just and honorable cause in defense of their country is.

  • Yzgirl

    Coming from a military family, I’d have to say that former Infantry Captain Montie Burchett was wise to take the high road and not respond to any of you. I can’t say I’m that noble. Those who have actually served their country know the risks of doing so, and don’t want you moaning about it back home, crying about the “injustice” of war.

    Though some of you are likely Darwinian atheists, I can guarantee that if the spirits of those servicemen linger near their bodies while you “pay your respects to dead soldiers,” they’d probably say “thanks for nothin.” They think it’s insulting that pseudo-intellectual liberals like yourselves profess to know that they’re being duped into fighting an unjust war. It’s condescending to servicemen that you obviously view them as innocent simpletons who don’t understand that the war is corrupt.

    Save your judgments for when you actually have a clearance level above zero and you are privy to all the intel that goes into a declaration of war. Google this: yellowcake canada. Bush may be an idiot, but at least he was right about the uranium (oh, and the Iraq War). It’s a marvel CNN never talked about it…..oh wait….it’s perfectly typical.

    I dare all of you to pry yourselves away from your Macs overlooking the Pacific and the Hudson; jump in your hybrids that are rapidly saving the earth, and walk down to your local recruitment office (most likely near the closest Whole Foods), and ask them if you think future generations could do what our grandparents and great grandparents did in World War II. They’d probably cry looking at you in all your millenial enabling glory and say, “We’re doomed if your kids are going to be defending my country.”

  • Anne-Kari

    Oh boy, here I go, back into this mess. My husband and I are lifelong Democrats. Neither of us were in favor of this war. My husband is an atheist.

    And he is a soldier. He’s spent years in the regular army, and even more now in the National Guard. He’s highly intelligent, very well informed, and politically opinionated. And he was deployed for a year and a half to Iraq.

    He was not duped, he joined the service with his eyes open. He went to Iraq because he swore an oath, and would not break his word or abandon his fellow servicemen – some of whom did not come home alive.

    My question to you is, did you read the comments? I mean really read them? MaryAnn and most of the other posters basically said that they hate the war, and feel passionately that our troops should not have been put in harm’s way for reasons that are specious at best.

  • JoshB

    Though some of you are likely Darwinian atheists

    Couldn’t take your post seriously after this.

    By the way, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a Mac, even if it was overlooking the Pacific. Speaking of the Pacific, it’s a grand sight to see, you should try overlooking it some time. But not from a Mac.

  • MaryAnn

    Though some of you are likely Darwinian atheists

    Oh, I love it!

  • Diane

    So you’re “likely” a Darwinian atheist? I’m an atheist myself. Maybe there’s a test I (we) can take to find out if I’m (we’re) of the Darwinian variety or not. I’m curious to know.

    (I’m waiting for the “f” word to start flying so JoshB can say “Fuckity fuck” again.)

  • Diane

    This is from National Public Radio, from 2004. It’s about the no photo policy. Take a listen.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1849313

  • Erik G

    I’d love to know just what “Darwinian” is supposed to mean. If by that you mean that atheists value scientific knowledge and rationality, not to mention mountains of evidence gathered by biologists all over the world for nearly 100 years. But that’s not “Darwinism”, as if it were some kind of political affiliation, rather that’s just hard scientific fact.

    Gosh darn you atheists, always trying to confuse the issue with facts and reason!

  • Mischief Maker

    The thing I never got about the creationist movement is that the book of genesis must be taken absolutely literally. None of that stuff is symbolic. 7 days exactly.

    But when it comes to the gospels that come direct from Jesus’ mouth? The sermon from the mountaintop? Blessed are the peacemakers? You can let that stuff slide. Jesus was just saying that’s how you’re supposed to act at church picnics.

    Turn the other cheek. It’s a great ideal to aspire to and consistently fail to reach. But apply it literally to the whole of your daily life? To your national policy? That’s crazy talk. Sacrilegious, even. Just because Jesus took a chunk of his limited time on Earth to tell people that eye-for-an-eye leads to destruction and that the only way to reach God’s Kingdom is to turn the other cheek, doesn’t mean you’re supposed to actually do it in your day-to-day life. There’s plenty of situations where that rule doesn’t apply that Jesus just overlooked.

    No, all you need to do to get into heaven is to not believe in a complicated and often couter-intuitive scientific theory that requires years of college-level education to properly understand and apply. Nothing that would actually have an effect on your life and inconvenience you in the slightest. Just say, “Well what were we BEFORE monkeys, Mr. Smartypants???” and eternal life and salvation are yours for the taking.

    It just doesn’t quite connect.

  • OMB

    My favorite Bill Hicks quip (which no comedian would have the balls to make today):

    “It was a very stressful time for me, the war. I’ll tell you why – I was in the unenviable position of being for the war, but against the troops. And ah… Not the most popular stance I’ve ever taken on an issue.”

    I can just see the torches and pitchforks being readied should any comedian try that now…

  • TLL

    Supporting our troops does not stop at making sure they have the proper equipment. Supporting them means being behind them whether you believe in their mission or not. If they have fallen in that mission, you continue supporting them by rendering them respect.

    Political motives should be applied to the Govt not the troops.

  • And all this time I thought MaryAnn was a Dawkinsian atheist…

  • Nathan

    I just wanted to say that I’m more of a Darwinian pantheist, but I still enjoy the site.

  • Gee

    Wasn’t Darwin the dolphin in SeaQuest?

  • MaryAnn

    TLL, who is disrespecting the troops here?

  • Steve

    As a proud, 18 year member of our armed forces, and the son of a career officer, I understand and agree with Captain Burchett’s comments. Typically, in my experience, certain segments of this population tend to minimize, and in some cases, demonstrate outright contempt for, the sacrifices of our nation’s armed forces. I, along with I would assume 99% of those who have served for any length of time, teared up at this trailer. We have a common set of experiences and a bond that those who haven’t served in or haven’t been exposed to the U.S. military in some way simply lack the experience to understand and fully appreciate. As for me, yes, the typical “left winger” who scoffs at movies like this while saying something akin to they “hate war yet support the troops” normally greatly irritate me, but at the end of the day, I really wish people like this would either have the courage to head down to the local recruiter and sign up for a tour of duty, or just quietly appreciate what we do. I know they won’t, though. As far as their criticism of military actions, policies, and everything else, I should just smile and ignore it, remembering that the sacrifices of those troops in those coffins gave the “left wingers” the right express those views. I’ll just say “your welcome”, even if you don’t deserve it.

  • bitchen frizzy

    There’s a disconnect here that’s not likely to be cleared up any time soon.

    A great many people, in uniform and not, question the uses to which politicians have put the military in recent history. This is not at all the same as questioning the actions of the military, and it isn’t disloyal to the military. The two are entirely separate. In civilians’ minds, the military and the politicians are separate entities, and the latter use the former to defend the country and as a foreign policy tool.

    Many military officers have difficulty making this distinction. Politicians’ foreign policy decisions come to them in the form of orders, and a good officer isn’t in the habit of objecting to his orders or questioning the motives behind them. Therefore, in the officers’ mind, citizens’ objections to the government’s foreign policy get equated with disloyalty and lack of support.

  • JoshB

    As for me, yes, the typical “left winger” who scoffs at movies like this

    Round and round we go. Who scoffed at this movie? Did you even read the comments?

    But you have to do this, don’t you? You have to believe that people who don’t support the war are also disrespecting the troops, all evidence to the contrary. Otherwise you would have some uncomfortable thoughts. For example: All of the “military actions, policies, and everything else” that “typical left wingers” criticize actually come from civilian leaders. It can’t very well be disrespecting the military if we’re criticizing civilians, can it?

    But in your own mind, as long as you can wrench the facts into order and say that people are scoffing at this trailer (which not a single post has done) you can keep you fractured views. It’s called cognitive dissonance, and you’ve got it in full effect.

    I’m fucking tired of being accused of disrespecting the troops. You don’t need to be a hardcore conservative to have the basic humanity to care that soldiers are dying.

  • Sas

    As an Darwinan Atheist I am a Patriotic American that has the utmost respect for my country and the US military. Not all atheists are liberal emocrats and I hate that people assume you can’t be both,

  • Tom

    Whether you are in favor of the war or not, this story is not political and people should not try to make it political.

    Everyone here should read the Lt. Colonel’s personal account of his journey.

  • Ralph

    Over a month from the last comment, I read the entire thread, because I just found out about the movie. First, let me provide context. I’m a Navy retiree after 20 years, and during my time in was “in country” Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm (aka Gulf War 1). After my return, and for the victory celebration held in Washington, D.C. shortly thereafter, I volunteered to escort the widowed spouse of a Naval aviator who never returned from his bombing mission (his body was never recovered). All surviving family members of those lost during the campaign were invited to the celebration (most agreed to participate), and the call for voulteers to escort them went out to every military organization in and around DC. The waiting list to provide escort duty was quite long; My prompt response is the only reason I was accepted. So, am I akin to LtCol Strobl? Did I salute the memorial marker for the fallen aviator, when I knew neither his widow nor anyone else was looking? Yes. That salute was between him and I, and I could do so in private. LtCol Strobl volunteered for something quite public, but the intent of the armed services is the same – honor those like us who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, for we too are willing to pay that price.
    I’m offering this to those of you that have never experienced the relationship between men and women who willingly know they “intend to go in harm’s way” as instruments of the United States will.
    Now, getting to my second point. The back and forth on this thread is healthy, because everyone “gets” it. Yes, none of us wants to see anyone get killed (except killing those that are about to attempt to kill or maim one of my comrades in arms, or hijack another plane to fly it into another building). Unfortunately, in some aspects of today’s military, they still feel the words “baby killer” coming from uber-liberals (and less educated folks that expressed that same comment as I walked the streets of San Francisco in uniform in 1975). I for one have seen the transition of the separation of the military and the politicians ever since Gulf 1, and it does my heart proud to see America make that shift without a charismatic leader invoking god and country. I will always stand with Capt Burchett, but I also will stand with (accepted or not) every other poster here, for I did not volunteer to join the armed forces without knowing I was doing so for every person in the United States.
    I guess my bottom line is, we know who we are, and ultimately respect each other as Americans.

  • Ranger Ed

    If you haven’t worn a uniform you really have no idea. $ h i t bag reporters would show no respect for the dead, just like you do.

    “… the policy of “no photos” was put forth by the military services in an attempt to maintain a respectful and reverant attitude toward those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who gave their all for their country and countrymen.

    That sounds real good, but the U.S. government learned its lesson from Vietnam, and knew that there’d be an uproar if we had regular reminders of how many of our soldiers were dying.

    Let me assure you, it wasn’t people like you who stopped what they were doing and paid respect to that marine’s body as it passed by.

    How do you know that? How do you know what people were thinking? And do you honestly imagine that I enjoy seeing young men and women dying? Is that truly and genuinely what you think?…”

    I’ll tell you how he knows, just like I do. You would never give support unless shamed into it. You statements speak for themselves. You say one thing and do another. I live in Boulder Colorado now, your type is everywhere.

  • JoshB

    $ h i t bag reporters

    Shitbag. No need to dodge profanity filters here.

  • MaryAnn

    JoshB said:

    I’m fucking tired of being accused of disrespecting the troops. You don’t need to be a hardcore conservative to have the basic humanity to care that soldiers are dying.

    I’m tired of hearing this: hardcore conservatives are the ones who wanted to invade a sovereign nation that was no threat to the U.S. on bullshit excuses, wishful thinking, and with a hardon for killing some hajjis. Hardcore conservatives are the ones who wanted to put American soliders in harm’s way for no good reason. Liberals are the ones who opposed this.

    Sas wrote:

    As an Darwinan Atheist I am a Patriotic American that has the utmost respect for my country and the US military. Not all atheists are liberal emocrats and I hate that people assume you can’t be both,

    And I hate that some people think you can’t be a atheist, a person of reason, *and* a liberal, and still be a decent, moral person.

    Ranger Ed wrote:

    That sounds real good, but the U.S. government learned its lesson from Vietnam, and knew that there’d be an uproar if we had regular reminders of how many of our soldiers were dying.

    Are you suggesting that American citizens should NOT be reminded of the price that American citizens are paying for the military adventurism of its politicians?

    You would never give support unless shamed into it.

    Anyone who can read what I wrote and interpret it as somehow NOT supporting our troops is so brainwashed that I cannot imagine how it could be possible to engage in intelligent dialogue about this with you.

  • JoshB

    I’m tired of hearing this: hardcore conservatives are the ones who wanted to invade a sovereign nation…Liberals are the ones who opposed this.

    I’m a little conflustered. Are you under the impression that I disagree with your statement?

    Thread necromancy ftw!

  • MaryAnn

    No, no, JoshB: I understand you agree with me. But the way you framed your agreement is completely in accord with how many people who DON’T agree with you think. And I wanted to make it clear how angry those people — not you — make me.

  • LLYNN

    I am saddened that our soldiers are dying in Iraq. But what makes it worse, is that while these brave young men and women die, we are left with people like Josh. This country is in trouble. We need more real men!

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