2008 - United States - 113 minutes
Director - Neil Burger
Writers - Neil Burger and Dirk Wittenborn
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars
Three soldiers who have received non life threatening wounds in Iraq are together on a plane to New York. Two of them are on thirty day leaves while the other has served his time and is on his way home. Due to a power outage, all flights out of New York have been canceled. The three agree to rent a car together in order to continue the trip to their destinations. Thus begins a road trip that is highly dramatic with its share of comic events.
Fred Cheaver is the middle aged father figure of the three - a man who never really expected to do anything in the army except serve his domestic reserve duty. He is glad to be rid of the whole thing and is headed home to his wife and son. The two young soldiers who accompany Fred are Colee Dunn and T.K. Poole. Colee is a bright-eyed innocent who is on a mission for a fallen comrade who saved her life. T.K. is a no nonsense soldier from a family of soldiers who plans to make the army his career and move up the chain of command.
Whereas, Fred’s quest is to return home to wife and son, Colee’s and T.K.’s goals are to travel to Las Vegas for two entirely different reasons. Colee wants to return her dead comrade’s treasured guitar to his family. T.K.’s reason is somewhat mysterious, but we know it is related in some way to his injury that has left him temporarily impotent.
As with all road trip films, the experiences and interactions of these three lead to conclusions not expected by them or the viewers.
Unlike most films featuring vets returning from the horrors of war, this film is not filled with dark angst - not to say the characters are not well-fleshed and genuine. These three are real people with real problems, but their depictions are not heavy-handed.
During this film, the viewer gets to enjoy the work of three excellent actors. Tim Robbins gives his usual fine, understated performance as the older man facing some totally unexpected twists of fate. Rachel McAdams gives Colee a likable innocence but also reveals some darker layers of her character. Michael Peña is very, very good as the macho guy with a heart who only wants to be a good soldier. Watching these three interact is a real treat.
Some may consider the treatment of the subject matter of this film too light handed, but it has a gentleness that rings true. It is surely worth watching.
January 30, 2009