With an approach to the war in Iraq like the latter half of Home of the Brave, Taking Chance emphasizes the effect of the war on the people in the home front. Taking Chance is the story of one soldier that decided to go off to war and another that decided to stay home and serve in a different capacity. When Taking Chance begins, Private First Class Chance Phelps has died and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobh (Kevin Bacon) notices his name and where lives on a list of the recently decreased while at home early one morning. When Lt. Col. Strobh requests to take PFC Chance home for burial, leaving the normalcy of his cubicle, Strobh’s odyssey and the real substance of Taking Chance begins.
While transporting Chance’s body and effects, Strobh encounters a diverse group of people, individuals that respond to his uniform and his assignment in different and some unexpected, ways. Some show his uniform and he respect instantly, some grow to respect him when they learn of his reason for traveling or at the very least look at him differently. The war and most tragic consequence of armed conflict, death, become all too real to some people. The fact that there is in fact a war going on, though it is not reported on as much as past conflicts, is plopped into unfamiliar and naïve laps, delivering a reverberating reality check. The safety and simple lives they enjoy comes at a price and when they see Chance’s packaged body, they are made aware that others are paying it for them.
Amongst the plethora of instructions Strobh is given at the initiation of his voluntary assignment, the most important is that Strobh to stand at attention and salute Chance’s packaged body when it is brought back into its presence or departs from it to be stowed for travel. This is shown with reverence and care as arms are slowly raised to forehead before being slowly returned to the side of the leg.
Taking Chance is not just the story of the transported but of the transporter as well. As what happened to Chance and the type of person and soldier he was comes to light from fellow soldiers, friends and family, the viewer also finds out the same about Strobh. Furthermore, from his displayed character, we realize that Strobh is not exactly suited or completely comfortable with his current duty assignment. During the third act of Taking Chance, the viewer finds out why Strobh is not in Iraq and his guilt over his decision. Strobh is a fit, able soldier and it’s evident during the second act that his decision is gnawing at him.
Ross Katz’s Taking Chance is war film about the people fighting the war, not about the war itself. Do not be beguiled though, this is not a film about post-traumatic stress disorder. Taking Chance is the story of one soldier’s journey of self-realization after another soldier’s journey has come to an end.