Avoiding the clichés one might expect to abound in a film about a beautiful young mother who enlists not once but twice to serve in Afghanistan, this is a feat
of expert script writing and filmmaking.
Between the two stints in the Army, decorated U.S. Army medic and single mother Maggie Swann must renew her relationship with her five-year old son, adjust
to her ex-husband’s new live-in and establish a new romance with a blue-eyed Mexican car mechanic, played by Manolo Cardona, who played Santiago in “Contracorriente” (“Undertow”) and is heart-throbbingly
gorgeous. And she suffers from recurring memories of her stint in Afghanistan which don’t allow her to sleep much.
who played Maggie Swann reminded me a little too much of Sandra Bullock though she is a good actress, playing the two ends of the emotional spectrum so
well that I actually cried with her. Returning home and to Fort Bliss in Houston Texas after a horrendous stint in the army where she served as a medic,
unable to sleep much and determined to take back her son, she plays the stoic decorated U.S. Army medic that she has become and yet, to win back her son
and establish any other loving relationship, she must (and does) allow her emotions to rule in the end.
The director, Claudia Myers, who also wrote the screenplay was at the screening answering numerous
questions afterward in both English and French. She is American but grew up in France. She worked extensively with the military making training movies and
wanted to write a story about a woman with a career and family. This extreme situation of a career in the military also appealed to her because the woman
had to play such emotional extremes, from not showing emotion in the worst circumstances of war to allowing her emotions for her son and for her lover to
have free reign. This is the second feature she has directed after the 2006 Showtime movie, “ Kettle of Fish”.
The film premiered at Toronto Film Festival 2013 and is being sold internationally by Voltage who has sold it for Showgate for Japan and Umbrella for
Australia, and Phase 4 for North America. “Fort Bliss”
won the Audience Award at the Champs Elysees Film Festival this past June.
If only there were a family-friendly version, I would take my young grandson and his mother to see this as I think a child would empathize with the little
boy, played marvelously by Oakes Fegley, if two very hot (and very
meaningful) sex scenes were edited out for a family-friendly version.
The sex scenes, however, were great in that each showed the psychological needs of a long emotionally-suppressed military woman and latter the sad and
determined lust of her and her lover. That was one cliché less: instead of showing the usual dreamy and loving sex motives of most films, sex revealed the
emotional states of people under pressure.
The second cliché avoided was the emotional bond between mother and son. It was a film even a child could respond too, much the way children respond to the
story of “Bambi” on film, and yet it avoided any sappiness. And the Army wants to see this story told, despite it showing troubling subject matter like
PTSD, reintegrating into society and sexual assault — but to their credit they have supported it and helped the film get made in terms of accuracy.
The credits offered thanks to the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss,American Legion, American Red Cross, Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, CA,
Patriot Guard Riders, U.S. Army Public Affairs, Union Editorial and the United Service Organizations (USO).
“Fort Bliss” stars Michelle Monaghan (“True Detective”, “Source Code”), Ron Livingston (“Boardwalk Empire,” “Office Space”), Manolo Cardona (“Undertow”,
“Beverly Hills Chihauhua”), Gbenga Akinnagbe (“The Wire”), Emmanuelle Chriqui (“Entourage”) and Pablo Schreiber (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,”
“Orange is the New Black”).
Producers are John Sullivan, Adam Silver, Patrick Cunningham, Claudia Myers, and Brendan McDonald. Executive Producer is Matt Chessé. Cinematography is by
Adam Silver with editing by Matt Chessé and Carsten Kurpanek. Original music by Asche & Spencer.
• Winner: Best Narrative Feature at the GI Film Festival
• Winner: Audience Award for “Best Feature – Independent American Film” at the Champs-Elysées Film Festival
• Winner: Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking Honors at the 2014 Newport Beach Film Festival
1 Hour, 49 Minutes / Not Yet Rated
“Fort Bliss” will play day-and-date in theaters and on VOD September 19
and will come out on DVD October 14. This is a film you want to see.