Film Review – Fort Bliss
Fort Bliss is another story of a soldier returning home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The only difference is that this film focuses on a woman. Whether we admit it or not, there are different standards for men and women in relation to family life. It is still shocking that a woman would leave her children for a long period of time to serve the military overseas.
Fort Bliss is in El Paso, Texas, and this is Maggie Swan’s (Michelle Monaghan) home base. She returns to Fort Bliss after having been gone for over a year serving as a medic. Our first glimpse of Maggie is in her element in Afghanistan, trying to save a man after her squad is ambushed. Fast forward to her excited return in Fort Bliss, she is met with no one from her family to greet her. Her ex, Richard (Ron Livingston), meets her as she is leaving. He did not bring her son, Paul (Oakes Fegley). When she finally sees her son again, he does not recognize her and throws a fit when Maggie leaves with him. Paul has become attached to Alma (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Richard’s current girlfriend. The film is about Maggie’s readjustment to civilian life, her experience in Afghanistan, and decisions about her job in the military that affect those in her life.
The film is solely centered on Maggie and Michelle Monaghan is in every scene. Her portrayal is one of being damaged, but hopeful of the future. Her tough exterior is not penetrated very often, but she has demons from her tour that come back to her in flashbacks. She is clearly hurt and surprised that Paul is not welcoming upon her return, and that throws her for a loop. Unfortunately, she makes some tough decisions that at first do not look like one of a loving mom, but she does have her family’s interests in mind when making them. Like many that return from war, she is not the same person who left, even if she hopes to be.
The supporting characters are important to the story as well. Central to the story is the son Paul. He throws fits and is unwelcoming as one could be to his mother’s return. His almost un-recognition of Maggie is a little too much, as I do not believe any child can forget his mother in the span of a year. Maggie also starts a relationship with a mechanic, Luis (Manolo Cardona), and his part of the story is one of understanding and trying to navigate a woman who is not “normal.”
Fort Bliss is an interesting look at the other gender in the war and the unique struggles they face both while on tour and when they return. The film is not the most riveting film as my mind wandered while watching it. Other than the gender difference, it feels like many other post-war films of late, each deviating in some way, but all with basically the same plot and message. It is worth seeing if only to see Michelle Monaghan’s performance or the El Paso scenery. The men and women of the military are continually making sacrifices for our country, and Fort Bliss illustrates this.