“The Lucky Ones”
At Showcase
Roadside Attractions

3 out of 5 stars

As Nov. 4 inches closer, the war in Iraq is gaining more and more attention in the media. With daily reports of the mess overseas, it’s easy to concentrate on only the overlying aspects of the war, forgetting the individuals who are affected. Soldiers are continually wounded and killed in the war. But those of us who are not directly affected tend to forget that.

It’s not surprising that the entertainment industry has found the war to a compelling subject. Films like “Stop-Loss” and “Rendition,” while not exactly box-office hits, have exposed a new side of the fight — one that isn’t just explosions and yelling soldiers. “The Lucky Ones” is the latest in these Iraq War-themed films working to expose the average citizen to the emotional affects of war.

Where “The Lucky Ones” differs from the others is in how it represents its characters. The film follows three soldiers after they have left Iraq, nursing physical injuries they can’t hide and emotional damage they can’t escape. Colee (Rachel McAdams, “Wedding Crashers”), Cheever (Tim Robbins, “War of the Worlds“) and TK (Michael Peña, “World Trade Center”) sit near each other on a plane. When a freak electrical problem cancels all flights out of New York City, forcing them to hitch a ride together, the film turns into an ideological road movie.

The rest of the movie follows the characters as they attempt to use their time back home to accomplish what they couldn’t overseas. As they travel across the country, each with a different reason to end up in Las Vegas, the trio experiences the kindness of strangers. The gratitude Americans have for these soldiers stays constant throughout the film — Colee, TK and Cheever are continuously thanked for their service. It’s a plot point that is hardly noticeable, but when it’s juxtaposed with a scene where college students make fun of Colee’s injury, mistreatment of the soldiers seems even more unacceptable. You can hate the war, but you should never hate the soldiers, the film suggests.

The film’s story is relatively simple, making room for a standout performance by McAdams. Most widely known for playing the one-dimensional character Regina in “Mean Girls,” McAdams fully commits to her portrayal of Colee, a girl intent on bringing a fallen comrade’s guitar back to his family. McAdams does a wonderful job alternating between loyalty for her deceased friend and the innocent shock and disappointment she must deal with when it turns out she may not have really known her friend at all. As for Robbins and Peña, while they are good actors, they aren’t given as much to do with their characters. It’s clear McAdams easily outshines the men.

The film’s simplicity allows the viewer to dig deep into the characters’ mental states. Why did these three individuals join the army? What are the repercussions of returning to battle? How do their lives differ from those of civilians? All of these questions are brought up but only partially answered. Feelings of unfinished business linger awkwardly at the film’s end. Perhaps that is intentional — after all it’s not like the world is anywhere close to forming a definite conclusion on the war on which the film is based.

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