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A moving and profound film
on February 26, 2009
I viewed this film at a pre-screening, and I left the theater deeply moved. It's a simple story made into a heartfelt film -- Marine Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl (perfectly played by Kevin Bacon) accompanies the remains of Private First Class Chance Phelps from the mortuary at Dover AFB in Delaware to his home in Wyoming.
The Marine's death in Iraq occurs in the tense first minute of the film, with viewers only hearing the radio chatter and the explosion on a black screen. The screen comes to light with PFC Phelps' remains being sent to the U.S. The care of the remains and the personal effects makes visible and gives dignity to the anonymous work at Dover AFB.
The story takes the viewer into some seldom-seen corners of America -- from airport cargo facilities to the mountain highways of Wyoming -- and shows everywhere the reverence for the fallen. When the escort gives Phelps' watch, dog tags, and wooden cross to his parents, eight days after his death, even men will feel the tears coming. Finally, as LtCol Strobl (who had not yet been to Operation Iraqi Freedom when he accompanied Phelps' remains home) thinks over the experience, there's a meditation on where duty lies for a Marine Corps officer.
Director Ross Katz, Kevin Bacon, and HBO have given us a profound film that grants us a rare look not at America's prosperity, or freedoms, or politics -- but rather America's soul.