If you’re expecting an action-packed, high-intensity war drama, I can tell you right now, you’ll want to skip Fort Bliss. However, if you’re into “Lifetime Movie Network” type films about strong, independent women who struggle yet ultimately persevere, then maybe Fort Bliss is your type of movie. Maybe.
This isn’t a movie about war- rather, it’s about life after war. Specifically, about one woman’s struggle to reintegrate herself into her son’s life after returning home from overseas. Michelle Monaghan (True Detective) carries the film as Army medic Maggie Swann, who, after returning from a two-year tour in Afghanistan, discovers that the life she knew has drastically changed. Her ex-husband Richard (Ron Livingston) is now engaged to another woman, Alma (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and her six-year-old son Paul (Oakes Fegley) doesn’t remember who she is.
Understandably, Maggie’s confidence as a mother would be shaken given her devastating circumstance, but she never seems to come out of playing that distant mother.
Much of the film focuses on Swann’s struggle to accept her new, post-war life. At one point, she has an intimate moment with her son, asking if they can start their relationship over. She playfully introduces herself (“Hi, I’m Maggie,”) and shakes his little hand. This is the first major milestone in their rocky relationship. However, for all of the emotional moments that the movie tackles, there are equal amounts of lackluster ones.
Despite its positive message, I ultimately have a hard time believing Maggie’s struggles. Monaghan plays the part of an Army servicewoman with conviction, but she seems to lack any and all maternal instincts upon her return from war to an unrealistic degree. Understandably, her confidence as a mother would be shaken given her devastating circumstances, but she never seems to come out of playing that distant mother. The script lacks the precise authenticity needed to give this film its staying power. It’s unclear if the screenwriter (who also happens to be the director, Claudia Myers) had help from real Army veterans, but I’d bet that if she would have, the dialogue would not have been as lackluster. But perhaps that is the fault of the director. It’s obvious that Myers has a personal interest in women in the military, and her casting choices for the film were great, although it lacks the substance to be a memorable war film and drama.