Friday, March 23 , 2018, 12:33 pm | A Few Clouds 59º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Taking Chance’

The film is a dramatic presentation of honoring those who have given their lives for our freedom

4 stars — Profound

As Americans grow weary of the wars in the Middle East, the stories of real lives lost in battle become a fading memory. Taking Chance brings the life of one of those young soldiers home in a profound and deeply emotional way.

Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl (Kevin Bacon), a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps to his hometown of Dubois, Wyo. Written by the real Lt. Col. Strobl, the event occurred in 2004. He accompanied Phelps home after realizing they were both from the same hometown, a small community with a population of less than 1,000 people.

Serving as a number cruncher for the military, Strobl in April 2004 was determining the replacement needs for the war after a buildup of casualties. Even though Strobl had been a veteran of Desert Storm in 1991, he felt convicted by his own career choices to stay out of the current battles.

As he reviewed the list of casualties daily, he hoped that he would not see a name he recognized. However, when he came across the all-too familiar listing of Phelps, Strobl decided he needed to personally make the journey to bring him home.

Each step of the story treats Phelps with the utmost respect and dignity. The people they encounter along the route home — from airline employees and the people who prepared his body for delivery to drivers along the road — provide a snapshot of the respect for another human being that is often lost in the midst of our everyday media-saturated images of people dying on television. The lessons learned by Strobl give a very personal impression of the sacrifice that is being made by someone nearly every day in this conflict.

How do you measure the life of another? Is it based on what they accumulate, or is it based on what they give? We all rise to the level of sacrificing at some point in our lives, and some do it daily. But, it is the sacrificial giving of one’s life for another that has the deepest spiritual impact.

In the words of Strobl, “Chance Phelps was wearing his Saint Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn’t know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him.”

Wars are always fought by our finest youths. They had so much of their lives yet to live, so our sense of loss is all the more difficult and their devotion all the more sacrificial. If every casualty had their story told to the public with the same degree of empathy that was given to Phelps, it would be hard to imagine how we would survive the tears.


» The decision by Strobl to accompany Phelps’ body to their hometown was compassionate. How do you believe this act helped the hometown grieve?

» When we bring home a fallen soldier, it reminds us of the cost of war. Do you believe such a film is helpful in bringing an end to war? Why or why not?

» The military honors being shown to the fallen of our present war are very different from the dishonor often demonstrated during the Vietnam War. What do you believe changed?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

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