The Lucky Ones

What a wonderful, wonderful ensemble piece. This three-character study features Tim Robbins ("The Shawshank Redemption," "The Player" and "Mystic River"), Michael Peña ("Crash," "Million Dollar Baby" and "Babel") and the lovely and talented young Canadian actress, Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook," "Red Eye" and "The Family Stone") ...this time with a faint "country" twang to her speech.

All three are returning from an Army tour in Iraq, each with an agenda, each focused on achieving it. Robbins is just out of the Army, ready to resume his middle-class life in the suburbs; Peña has aspirations of going on to Officers' Candidate School and making a career of the Army; McAdams is a wounded private and has a 30-day furlough during which she will deliver an old heirloom guitar to the family of a deceased Army buddy.

In this classic road picture, Robbins is very mature and sensible, happy to get home and eager to be a civilian again. Peña is glib, chatty and full of bluster, despite a seemingly minor shrapnel wound that has caused him some serious moments of self-doubt. McAdams is ingenuous and big-hearted, with a serious case of blabbermouth! How the three of them end up crossing the United States together and what happens along the way, is the heart and soul of this satisfying comedy.

Writer/Director Neil Burger ("The Illusionist") has given each actor his/her own moment to shine and each has risen to the challenge. As a nice touch, he shows various Americans going out of their way to accommodate this trio and taking the time to say "Thank you." To me it seemed that this is a result of our country's shameful treatment of her returning military folks during Vietnam as we consciously try to avoid making that same mistake again.

I really liked this movie! (...but captions would have been seriously welcome! I'll have to watch the DVD to catch some of the witty dialog.) With Tim Robbins in the cast, I was braced for a jeremiad about the war in Iraq, but instead saw a balanced story with an unexpected outcome.