Take a Drink: for homecoming disappointments
Take a Drink: whenever Maggie shows how tough she is
Take a Drink: whenever her son says or does something devastating
Take a Drink: whenever Ron Livingston is pissed
Take a Drink: for the mechanic’s shop
Do a Shot: for every tough choice Maggie has to make
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
On January 24th, 2014, the U.S. Army announced that they will begin integrating women into ground combat units, countermanding a policy that’s been officially in place since 1994 and in practice as long as women have served in the U.S. Military. However, plenty of women have seen combat as medics and served in a variety of support positions, a perspective on war that has only fitfully been explored in film. This year sees two prominent projects, the Kristen Stewart-starring Guantanamo Bay drama Camp X-Ray and Fort Bliss.
If you can’t fit the expression to the movie, fit the movie to the expression.
Fort Bliss stars Michelle Monaghan as the protagonist, Maggie, and explores another facet of the eternal war story-coming home. Maggie returns to find an ex-husband who has moved on (Ron Livingston) and a young child who barely remembers her as his mother. Maggie must reintegrate into their lives, and decide whether she will stay, or return to serve again.
We’ve seen some of this thematic territory explored before in films like Stop-Loss and The Hurt Locker among many, many others stretching back to The Best Years of Their Lives, but never from a female soldier’s perspective, and that is where the fascination lies in Fort Bliss. After any long stretch of time away from home, you will return to a different world than you left, and you yourself will have changed. This reverse culture shock is only compounded when the culture and lifestyle are radically different, and few cultural gulfs are so large as a civilian and a soldier at war.
No, dodging paparazzi does not evenly remotely compare, ass.
Writer and director Claudio Myers does a great job of communicating the difficulties of readjusting to civilian life while showing how being a mother adds yet another degree of anguish to the process. Monaghan’s Maggie is a brusque, fearless woman and an excellent soldier, but that doesn’t make her free of the somewhat hypocritical societal expectations of motherhood.
Acting-wise, Monaghan does an excellent job portraying this multifaceted character facing a litany of difficult decisions. Ron Livingston is equally great, frustrated by being hemmed in by the decisions this person he shares a child with makes on everyone’s behalf and demonstrating the suffering those left at home raising children alone face in wartime. Hmmm… this really is a cleverly feminist film when you think about it.
Fort Bliss has a small “tell, don’t show” problem that surfaces for a few lines in the script, and the borderline (or just actual) psychopath sergeant that prompts Maggie’s last, most difficult decision feels like a melodramatic misstep in an otherwise wholly realistic film. As all-too-many headlines have disturbingly shown, this kind of person can certainly be drawn to the military, but they aren’t likely get very far if they go around telling people about it.
Hi! I’m Bill and I like to castrate the homeless with my teeth!
Fort Bliss is a well-acted, compelling examination of coming home from war from an intriguingly gender-reversed perspective.