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Film / Taking Chance

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A 2009 film based on the experiences of Michael Strobl, a lieutenant colonel in the United States Marine Corps, who volunteered to escort home Chance Phelps, a fallen Marine who was killed in the Battle of Falluja. The film has been known to cause Manly Tears in pretty much everybody who has seen it.

Taking Chance contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The Atoner: Strobl feels guilty because he is serving in a staff job stateside rather than taking part in the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Based on a True Story: The film is based on an essay the real Strobl wrote about escorting Chance Phelps home.
  • Death Notification: The very beginning of the film shows this from the point of view of the military personnel delivering the notice, with a short segment of them coming outside, clearing the snow off of their car, and driving to Chance's home. It doesn't become clear what they are doing until they both get out of the car and begin walking towards the house.
  • Due to the Dead: The central theme of the movie, each fallen servicemember is escorted home to his hometown for burial. There is no point during the entire voyage, from Iraq to Europe to Dover Air Force Base to the servicemember's hometown, where the body is not under a military escort.
    • The late night/early morning notification shows an example, as the Marines are ensuring that Phelps's family receives proper notification immediately and aren't first informed via social media or the news.
  • Facial Horror: Implied. Just before Strobl joins up with the hearse that is transporting Chance's body to the first airport, one of the Dover morticians walks up to him and tells him that, in spite of her best efforts, Chance's body is not suitable for viewing. Because of this, Chance's funeral and ceremony both end up being closed-casket.
  • Innocently Insensitive: The girl sitting next to Stobl on his second flight keeps up a chattering conversation for much of the flight, unaware of the circumstances. When she learns that he is an escort, she apologizes for her insensitivity. In a rare example for this trope, Strobl wasn't bothered or offended by her actions, as she provided some much-needed levity during the journey.
  • Insistent Terminology: Strobl notices that the girl in the seat next to him is sending a text about the "HOT Soldier" sitting next to her.
    • Very much Truth in Television, as any military person or veteran will ensure that their correct branch of service is used.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The TSA agent at the first airport causes difficulties, demanding that Strobl remove his uniform blouse and relinquish Phelps's personal effect while going through security.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: Twice. First when the mortician carefully cleans the blood off Chance's personal effects near the beginning of the movie, and again when his family receives them towards the end of the movie.
  • Product Placement: Yoohoo is rather prominently displayed while Strobl is waiting to escort Phelps' body.
  • The Quest: Strobl volunteers to escort Phelps home to his family, and has to ensure that Phelps' body is accounted for at every step of the way.
  • Quit Your Whining: The night before the memorial service, when Strobl starts expressing his angst over not going on a combat tour to Iraq in favor of being able to spend more time with his family, a veteran sets him straight:
    Charlie Fitts: Want to be with your family every night... you think you have to justify that?
  • Semper Fi: Both Phelps and Strobl are United States Marines.
  • Survivor Guilt: Sergeant Arenz, who was with Chance when he died. His guilt is even more pronounced because he trained Chance. He takes Chance's death as a personal failing, as if Chance wouldn't have died if he had somehow trained him better.
    Strobl: I'm glad you're here.
    • Strobl himself. Despite his desire to stay home with him family, and his military profession being suited to an office crunching numbers, he feels guilty that he requested a non-deployable posting. It is this guilt that motivates him to request to escort Phelps home.
  • Title Drop: On his way home from the funeral, Strobl crosses out the official title of his report and rechristens it "Taking Chance".
  • Thicker Than Water: Strobl is making small talk with another of the escorts when they cross paths again about midway through the movie.
    Sergeant Ellison: I'm headed to Rochester. It's about 90 miles from here. My family is meeting us there.
    Strobl: ... Are you related to the deceased, Sergeant?
    Ellison Yes Sir. He's my brother.
  • To Absent Friends: The local VFW post hosts a get-together the night before the memorial for this purpose.

If more men were like Chance in this world, we wouldn't need a Marine Corps.