Fort Bliss is a powerful film about a single mother, played by Michelle Monaghan, who comes back from serving in Afghanistan as a well-decorated medic to a 5-year-old son who sees her as more of a stranger than a mother. The director, writer and producer of the film is none other than American University professor, Claudia Myers. The issues portrayed in this film are more than just the struggles of a woman in the military, but also addresses issues like sexual assault, soldier reintegration, post-traumatic stress/survivor’s guilt, toll of deployment on the family and the impact of deployment on children. The movie focuses less on the action of war that we often see in films, and more on the raw emotions that many soldiers feel when transitioning back to a life at home.
Michelle plays a role that we rarely see in many women in Hollywood movies- tough, smart, unemotional, commanding and in charge. She stands up for herself when a male solider questions her authority, she proves her skill when questioned and she puts up a tough exterior that some would label as “masculine”. She also stands out as a leading actress in a movie whose main plot line does not revolve around romantic exploits. Instead, she loves her job and is good at it but returns home to a life she no longer knows how to live. It is the struggle of motherhood but also the overarching struggle of a person in the military returning home. This movie deserves recognition for portraying an honest battle that soldiers (both men and women) face that many of us often forget or can never really understand.
Myers used her knowledge working on military documentaries as the basis for this film. Her background research and prior experience working with this subject material prepared her for creating a film with accurate and vivid portrayals that can resonate with the viewer. The details she uses add to the overall feel of the movie such as the use of no audio during a time of stress for Maggie (the single mom), or how she can’t sleep on a bed when she first arrives home. Her nightmares depict an accurate struggle of military personnel who are often left with the memories of time spent in war and guilt felt upon looking back at times that could have gone differently. While it is a fictitious story, viewers feel connected to the life of single-mom Maggie and sense the accuracy that the film portrays. It is evident that the movie is less about war and more about a woman’s struggle between defending her country and being there for her family.
Fort Bliss was recognized as “Best Narrative Feature” of the 2014 GI Film Festival and just won “Best Independent Feature” at the TIVA-DC Peer Awards. Actress Michelle Monaghan has also received praise for her role in the film, with The Hollywood Reporter mentioning that her performance was Oscar-worthy. While it hasn’t gotten the promotion it deserves throughout Hollywood, the movie is worth the watch and is available to view on Netflix.