No Degrees of Separation

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taking-chancelSix degrees, two degrees, no degrees. Kevin Bacon walks amongst us. If you live in N.Y.C. you will have seen him here or there. Ditto if you surf your TV for late night moving pictures. He is a chameleon in some ways. Appears in movies, maybe not in the forefront, that have defined Americans and our culture in every decade he has worked, and he has worked plenty, although you'd be hard-pressed to find fans and critics raining the same praise on him as they do his peer Sean Penn. Too bad, because he has maintained a steady and dignified career. From highbrow dramas to comedies, science fiction to horror flicks, and even animation (the voice of Balto). From Animal House in 1978, the original Friday the 13th in 1980, not to mention Diner and Footloose from that same decade, even my son's favorite dark monster comedy Tremors in 1990. And certainly these memorable flicks: JFK, Apollo 13, A Few Good Men, Hollow Man, Stir of Echoes, Mystic River, The Woodsman, Where the Truth Lies, and Ron Howard's very fine Frost/Nixon. He doesn't beg to be noticed. Doesn't fill the gossip pages with high drama or lowbrow antics. He's the consummate pro. And also a damn fine musician. Witness the The Bacon Brothers for proof. A band that he and his brother Michael have been driving for the past 14 years. But I digress....

I want to talk about his latest effort, HBO's Taking Chance. This is a must-see pic, regardless of your feelings about Iraq, our military, or death and glory. It will definitely move you. And Kevin's riveting performance is front and center. The script is based on a journal kept by Marine Lt. Col. Michael Stroble (Bacon), who voluntarily escorted the body of 19-year-old Marine PVT. Chance Phelps' body from Washington to his grave in Dubois, Wyoming. Co-writen/directed/produced by Ross Katz, it is beautifully presented by this first-time filmmaker.

Initially, the Chicago Tribune published Col. Strobl's recollections of his remarkable and redemptive journey: "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."

There are no false notes, syrupy endings, preachy histrionics. In fact, there is very little dialogue. The story is told by the journey that this young fallen soldier's body must take to reach its final resting ground. All of the anonymous faces -- filled with respect and sadness -- that his casket will pass by tell all us all that we need to know. Moreover, Mr. Bacon's steely-eyed and military-rigid manner conveys more emotion than any movie you'll see on TV or the silver screen this winter or spring.

It will make you reexamine your patriotism, your respect for fallen soldiers, your views of death, and most likely your appreciation for life. This movie will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

Check out the HBO website and trailer here for more info. - Dusty Wright

dusty5a

Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs, and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.