After suffering an injury during a routine patrol, hardened sergeant T.K. Poole (Michael Pe¤a) is granted a one-month leave to visit his fiance. But when an unexpected blackout cancels all flights out of New York, T.K. agrees to share a ride to Pittsburgh with two similarly stranded servicemen: Cheever (Tim Robbins), an older family man who longs to return to his wife in St. Louis, and Colee (Rachel McAdams), a naive private who's pinned her hopes on connecting with a dead fellow soldier's family. What begins as a short trip unexpectedly evolves into a longer journey. Forced to grapple with old relationships, broken hopes and a country divided over the war, T.K., Cheever and Colee discover that home is not quite what they remembered, and that the unlikely companionship they've found might be what matters the most.
An earnest if not wholly satisfying comedy-drama about an awkward homecoming for three dissimilar Iraq War veterans, The Lucky Ones
works best as a vehicle for its interesting lead performances. Tim Robbins transcends his real-life, anti-war reputation by playing Cheever, a Reservist and decent fellow who is injured in Iraq when a porta-potty falls on him. Eager to see his family, he ends up on a road trip with two other soldiers trying to reach their own destinations. There's Colee (Rachel McAdams), a young and earnest woman who enlisted to escape family problems, endured a leg wound and is on her way to meet the family of her boyfriend, who was killed in combat. There's also T.K. (Michael Peña), recruited from a poor family and granted a month's leave after becoming impotent from a wound. The odyssey these characters, initially strangers to each other, share is fairly predictable for anyone who has seen such classic vets-coming-home movies as The Best Years of Our Lives
. As Colee, T.K. and Cheever travel together, they encounter what sometimes feels and looks like an alien landscape: people who patronize them, people who despise the war without an inkling of what it's like to endure it, and a host of other exploitative chuckleheads who just don't get it. Inevitably, the trio has only itself to rely upon, to share the knowledge of the war's reality and provide support in ways that are sometimes funny and sometimes poignant. Co-written and directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist
), The Lucky Ones
has a rambling structure that causes the film to lose focus. But its heart is in the right place, and Robbins, McAdams and Peña play people one can care about as much as enjoy. --Tom Keogh