Overview: An Army medic, Staff Sergeant Maggie Swann (Michelle Monaghan), struggles with her homecoming after a tour in Afghanistan. Yeniceri Produksiyon A.S., 2014, Not Rated, 116 minutes.
Army Strong: For military families, the struggle exists not only on the frontline for our service men and women, but on the home-front as well. Days, weeks, months without hearing the voice of a family member, feeling their touch, or seeing their face. With any drama involving war, it is up to the director, in this case, Claudia Myers, to find a way to measure the psychological pain for the audience. Myers has some success, most sharply realized towards the beginning of the film during the homecoming of Swann’s unit. From a civilian perspective, Myers conveys a soldier’s spirit in Swann: loyalty to her comrades, valor in the battlefield, and respect to the service itself.
A Heart in Two Places: With Swann’s homecoming, it becomes apparent the balance between being a career woman and a mother is one of the key conflicts she must overcome. A significant part of the plot centers on Maggie repairing her relationship with her 5-year old son, Paul. I want to believe that they were able to become close, however, the timeline and the forced diplays of bonding were not realistic. Swann’s heart leaps from one longing to another as the film doesn’t bother to allow my attention or interest to keep up, until eventually, the narrative plateaus. I’m not talking about the sort of lull meant to pave the way for forthcoming unfortunate event. The story just sits idle.
And before we leave the topic of the matters of the heart, the spark that ignited between Swann and her love interest, Luis, is far from natural. Their romance is a flamethrower attempting to disguise itself as a spark bred from the friction of dry sprigs.
Ma’am, Yes Ma’am: Monaghan’s performance is both one of dual requirements and dual accomplishments: She falls short with respect to her familial and personal obligations, but she successfully showcases the headstrong characteristics of an excellent leader. At Swann’s best, we are offered the opportunity to see a keenly realized manifestation of the female experience in the military. If I were to ask you to give me a movie title featuring a female lead in a war movie, you’d probably say G.I. Jane and we’d probably both laugh about it. I hope that I see more movies come to production centering on incredibly unique, but vital viewpoint.
Final Thoughts: Although Fort Bliss makes a noble attempt to illustrate several different areas of emotional turmoil in a female soldier’s life, it doesn’t always carry this ambition gracefully.