There isn’t a single thing in this world that can’t share a sentence with Kevin Bacon. Bacon and the financial crisis? Bernie Madoff connects ’em. Bacon and bar bands? See: the Bacon Brothers. Bacon and giant terrestrial killer worms? We’ll excuse you while you go to YouTube for some choice Tremors clips. But how comfortable should we be with the leathery Footloose star portraying the solemn subject of military funerals? Very, as it turns out.
Based on an account by Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, Taking Chance follows a high-ranking Marine as he ushers the body of an Iraq War casualty from Dover Air Force Base to his burial in Wyoming. As Strobl, Bacon is equal parts pushups and stony silence—a number cruncher who never served in the kind of battle that killed the 19-year-old he guards. The film is relatively brief, clocking in at just over an hour, but unhurriedly moves from airplane hanger to hearse, the camera lingering on the Americans who pay their respects to the fallen hero along the way.
Yes, it’s a little manipulative. Once you put a flag-draped casket on screen, you can’t pretend you’re not tugging at heartstrings. (Politics and the Pentagon’s policy on not allowing pictures of military coffins get barely a mention, but the we-should-all-see-this implication is clear.) The restraint shown by the filmmaker and Bacon both—interspersing Strobl’s uneasy guardianship with near-frozen tableaux of the American countryside—keeps out the cheap sentiment. The message is sad, but it’s a movie about a dead teenager; no one is pretending anything different.
While the film touches on only a few details of journeys such as this—like how airport security trips up even marines in full uniform—Stobl’s original essay and Esquire’s 2008 standout “The Things That Carried Him” both make for required postviewing reading.
Taking Chance airs Sat 21 at 8pm on HBO.
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