Movie Review for The Lucky Ones (2008)

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Review #694 of 365
Movie Review of The Lucky Ones (2008) [R] 115 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.00
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 27 September 2008 @ 8:05 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits: nada
Unsung Person from the Credits: Car Grip – Robert Hicks

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Neil Burger (The Illusionist)
Written by: Neil Burger (The Illusionist) • Dirk Wittenborn (Fierce People)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Rachel McAdams (The Family Stone) • Tim Robbins (Noise) • Michael Peña (Lions for Lambs)

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Here's the pitch…it's a road trip movie about Army soldiers who, in their journey, deal with just about every negative emotion related to being involved in the Iraqi war but somehow find solace in each other. Oh, and it's called The Lucky Ones. Yes, the title is literal, referring to those lucky enough to return home alive. Without a current relative stationed abroad in the military, it's harder to comprehend the true magnitude their absence has on their families even without the specter of doom as to whether or not they will ever return even being included. Co-writer / Director Neil Burger has demonstrated a keen eye for character development, which is this film's strong suit since the plot is a meandering journey of three soldiers:

Colee (Rachel McAdams)--the youngest and funniest of the group, wounded in the leg, and out on 30-days leave to visit family. She's loyal, but comes across as less worldly and savvy as her compatriots. Her mission is to return the guitar of her fallen comrade from Las Vegas who claimed it had been in the family for three generations since it was given to his grandfather by Elvis or some such story. She was told it was very valuable, and she couldn't live knowing that it wasn't returned to the family.

TK (Michale Peña)--the most confident of the group, wounded in the groin and currently unable to 'perform' up to his expectations, he's also on 30-days leave, and planning to head to Las Vegas to meet with some paid-pros who claim to be able to assist in his personal problem before venturing home to visit his very demanding girlfriend. He's got big, big plans to capitalize on his obvious leadership skills in business and politics when he gets out.

Fred Cheever (Tim Robbins)—the old guy in the group, he's been discharged from the Army after 20 years and is ready to return home to St. Louis to be with his family.

All three end up on the same plane back to the USA from Germany. Unfortunately, when they land, there's been a huge power outage on the East Coast, and all flights have been grounded or delayed. Cheever gets the idea to rent a car and drive to St. Louis. Colee and TK get the idea to tag along and share the expenses figuring they can fly to Las Vegas from St. Louis just as easily. Cheever agrees to the plan not realizing how invaluable they will become later. Along the way, they run into just about every possible public sentiment about the war in Iraq from the obligatory "Thank you for your service" to the "The war's a disaster and you people are fighting a losing battle". They also begin to bond and learn about each other. It a very short amount of time, complete strangers become complete best friends. Then, they arrive in St. Louis, and then Cheever's life falls completely apart. Fortunately, he's got Colee and TK at his side. You'll have to read the spoiler if you desire more plot spoiling than this.

The film's power arises in its ability to draw you into their trio. What happens to them along their road trip has moments borrowed from the theatre of the absurd, an ancient Greek tragedy, and the comical misadventures of one Clark Griswold; and you will experience all three right along with them.

… a movie that's more fun to watch than to leave behind.
All three leading stars deliver in their performances. Ms McAdams milks Colee's innocence, Mr. Peña takes TK on the ride of a journey of real introspection, and Tim Robbins is either so great that he could have done this role in his sleep or so brilliant at to make it look just that easy for him. As for the net result of the film, ultimately, it is the disappointing ending, not the actor, that unwinds the build-up and chemistry of the film's characters. While it presents a grandiose political statement that both sides could use to argue their stance on the war, it does not befit these heroes and leaves you to figure out what motivated them and the writers to take this final course. The result is a movie that's more fun to watch than to leave behind. Maybe that was Neil Burger's point.

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Cast Members
Rachel McAdamsTim RobbinsMichael Peña
Neil Burger
Neil BurgerDirk Wittenborn

Review-lite The Lucky Ones (2008) [max of 150 words]
Three USA Army soldiers return from a tour of duty for leave or discharge and find themselves on a road trip that will force them to reconcile much more than they bargained when they hastily agree to band together after a power outage on the east coast strands them together. Neil Burger co-writes and directs this film of great characters starring Rachel McAdams, Michael Peña, and Tim Robbins, that wanted the country in search of St. Louis. With moments borrowed from the theatre of the absurd, an ancient Greek tragedy, and the comical misadventures of one Clark Griswold; you will experience all three right along with them. IN the end, though, the journey is more fun to watch than the ending making The Lucky Ones difficult to leave behind.

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