There's a lot of silence in "Taking Chance," a film that is both elegant and elegiac.
That's because it's a simple but powerful story, one that doesn't need fussiness to be effective.
It's on HBO at 9 Saturday night.
It's the true story of the journey of Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl (Kevin Bacon), a Quantico-based Marine, as he accompanies the body of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, a Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
Strobl volunteers for the duty after seeing that Phelps is from his home town, but Strobl also has a bit of guilt about the fact that he works as a numbers cruncher, when others are fighting in Iraq.
That's really it, plotwise. But what happens on that journey is a revelation to Strobl and maybe to you too. The film shows the encounters Strobl has with everyday Americans, some who come to know he is escorting a fallen soldier, and some who discover it later. There has been debate about whether one can be against war and still support the troops. This film seems to answer that it's possible.
One lovely scene shows how, when Strobl is in his car following the hearse carrying Phelps remains, other drivers turn on their lights and form a funereal caravan, their small show of respect.
It also reveals what happens to the body every step of the way, without being gruesome. The people who care for the body -- those who clean the blood from personal effects, those who train the escorts on how to talk to the families -- all are shown doing their jobs with tenderness and dignity. Whatever you may feel about the military, the film proves how moving its traditons can be.
Bacon gives another wonderful performance. He's portraying a military man, a disciplined man not prone to big emotion. Yet he manages to convey all you need to know and feel.
If you don't have HBO, invite yourself over to someone's house who does. You can bring the tissue.