Review: Fort Bliss

Michelle Monaghan in Fort Bliss

Fort Bliss is a film about what it means to be a soldier, to serve in the Army. It was written, directed, and produced by Claudia Myers.

Spoilers ahead.

The soldier is Maggie Swann, played by Michelle Monaghan. When the story begins, she’s in Afghanistan serving as a medic. She’s been there 15 months and she’s ready to head home. She thinks she’ll be home for at least 9 months and she’s eager to see her 5 year old son Paul (Oakes Fegley). Home for her is the Army base in Fort Bliss, Texas.

Maggie Swann hugs her son Paul in Fort Bliss
Maggie Swann hugs her son Paul in Fort Bliss

All the themes that mark films like this one about male soldiers apply to Maggie Swann’s story. The problems readjusting to life back home. The problems getting reacquainted with her child and connecting with him again. The sense of duty that drives soldiers to recommit to service and to sacrifice their own best interests to protect the soldiers they serve with. The nightmares and the horrors relived night after sleepless night. The relationship issues and the need to be close to someone. The question of how returning soldiers are treated by their government and their branch of the service.

Because Maggie is a female there is an overlay to this story that makes what the characters experience even more complicated. There is the issue of sexual consent. There’s the way a man acts when a woman is called to do what men have done. There’s the cultural expectation of what a mother should be and do, and what a father should be and do.

Michelle Monaghan gives an outstanding performance. So do the other actors. Maggie interacts with her ex-husband Richard (Ron Livingston) and his new girlfriend Alma (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who has been helping raise Paul.

Manolo Cardona as Luis
Manolo Cardona as Luis

She befriends a mechanic named Luis (Manolo Cardona) who becomes her lover – not an easy job when you’re dealing with all the issues I mentioned. He is a good guy, and good for her. Not every returning soldier finds someone like that.

Other important characters in the story include a Staff Sergeant Maggie served with played by Pablo Schreiber and another Staff Sergeant who goes home at the same time Maggie does played by Dash Mihok.

Here’s the trailer.

The film came out in 2014, and recently found its way to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. I found the film outstanding. I heartily recommend it to you.

Images © 2014 – Voltage Pictures

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