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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this somber film traces the journey of Private Chance Phelps, from his death in battle in Iraq, to a military mortuary in the United States, and finally to his hometown where he is buried. It also follows Lt. Col. Mike Strobl, who volunteers to escort Chance’s coffin on the final stages of the trip, and along the way comes to grips with his own conflicted feelings about his duty as a Marine. The spare, emotional drama keeps politics in the background, and focuses instead on the soldiers serving, and dying, in Iraq. Whether or not people believe this conflict makes sense, the film makes it clear that anyone who gives their life in battle deserves honor and respect. Though there is very little violence, sex, swearing, drinking, or anything else that might alarm parents, the complex and poignant themes are probably better for a mature audience.
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What's the story?
Conflicted over his decision to request a desk job instead of a combat assignment, Lt. Col. Mike Strobl (Kevin Bacon) volunteers to escort the body of a fallen Marine home for the funeral. This poignant film follows two parallel journeys: Private Chance Phelps, from his death in Iraq, to a military mortuary, and finally to his hometown; and Strobl, Phelps’s official escort, who shows honor to his fallen comrade during the trip and slowly comes to terms with his own feelings about his duties to both his country and his family. Strobl is deeply affected by the experience as he witnesses the way that ordinary people show respect to him and to Phelps’s casket at every stage.
Is it any good?
Though the presence of death looms heavy in TAKING CHANCE, this quiet and thoughtful film focuses not on combat but on the aftermath. It shines a light on a rarely-seem part of military culture: how the living honor the fallen. Civilians may be surprised by the magnitude of the military’s funeral apparatus, including a team of morticians trained to reverently prepare bodies mangled by warfare, and the escorts who safeguard the coffins on their final journeys and respectfully stand at attention as their charges pass by at every transit point.
Taking Chance shows how this duty affects not only Strobl, but also the ordinary citizens he meets on the journey. Some of these civilians are not shy about voicing their opposition to the war in Iraq, but without exception they show nothing but support for Phelps and his fallen brethren. Despite the polarizing politics that surround the conflict, the emotional film makes clear that the soldiers on the ground deserve admiration and respect for taking on a dangerous and often deadly mission.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about combat and death. Warfare and violence are common in action movies and TV shows, but the aftermath is rarely seen. What do you think about the way that death is presented in this film? Does it make death seem more real to you?
Discuss the war in Iraq. How is the conflict portrayed in this film? What, if anything, does it say about the political reasons for the war? Do you need to support the war to show respect for the troops, especially those who are killed in battle?
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