Fort Bliss opened at just three theaters this weekend. One in Manhattan, one in Burbank, and at one in Fort Bliss, Texas. But if you are not living in the vicinity of those places you can catch the film on demand.
The skinny is that Michelle Monaghan plays US Army Staff Sergeant Maggie Swann, and as the film opens, she is in Afghanistan serving as a medic. She’s pretty good at her job, and by the time she gets back stateside, she will have won a Bronze Star.
She is a single Mom and her 15 month tour has shattered the bond she had with her young son Paul (Oakes Fegley) who is now five years old. While Maggie was overseas, the boy bonded with his father (Ron Livingston) and his girlfriend Alma (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and doesn’t really remember all that much about his birth Mom.
But Maggie is a can do kind of person, and so, now that she’s back, she drags Paul off to come live with her in her Fort Bliss apartment. But none of that works too well. The boy needs time and care to warm up to his real Mom, and Maggie needs to time to adjust to living back in the USA. Her overseas deployment may be over, but she still replays events from over there in her dreams, which come to her when she is able to sleep, which isn’t often.
Written, directed, and produced by Claudia Myers, the film lacks what you might call cinematic polish. Maybe that is because Claudia Myers has not been a director all that long. Or maybe it is because the film is a low-budget indie. Much of it is slow or meandering, and we get plenty of signals as to what should be coming next. Only it takes its time, and here and there, you might find yourself getting fidgety.
But this is a film that works dramatically and is carried by the strong performance by Michelle Monaghan. As Sgt. Swann she’s tough without being brash, and you’ll believe it when you see it that she still has to prove herself on more than a few occasions both in combat as well as stateside.
Swann is not a Private Benjamin (1980) played by Goldie Hawn, nor is she a G.I. Jane (1997) played by Demi Moore. She’s also nothing like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the Alien Franchise. This is a brave and courageous woman who will say pretty far into the film:
“I love my son and I love my country and I don’t think I should have to choose between them.”