Saying The Lucky Ones is the best film yet about Iraq is the proverbial damning with faint praise. Conservative op-ed writers of the world, rejoice: The three soldiers in Neil Burger's film aren't raving psychopaths or illiterate hulks, just normal Americans who love eating McDonald's when they're on leave. One of them even believes in God. There's Cheever (Tim Robbins), whose name must be a joke; a suburban house owner and stand-up guy, he's about as far as you can get from family abuse and three-martini lunches. Along for an ad-hoc road trip: Sgt. Poole (Michael Peña), a cocky business-advice-spouting dude, and Colee (Rachel McAdams), as nice a gal as you'd ever hope to meet. All three actors are excellent—I'd been assuming that Robbins forgot how to underact sometime in the '90s, but this almost makes up for Mystic River—and Burger's film works scene to scene. But its hopelessly schematic road-trip arc (bond-fight-reconcile-repeat) grows increasingly tedious. It's a "well-made" film: Explosive emotional confrontations are deferred, the ending is purposefully unresolved, the camera work deliberately unshowy. Thank goodness for all that—and for the fact that a hashed-over war debate gets less time than one character's ED problem—but it's finally all too familiar.
Peña and McAdams on the road.
Opens at Meridian and other theaters, Fri., Sept. 26. Rated R. 115 minutes.