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Stop Loss
3 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Kimberly Peirce

Written By:
Kimberly Peirce, Mark Richard

Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Victor Rasuk, Timothy Olyphant, Josef Sommer, Linda Emond, Ciaran Hinds, Mamie Gummer, Abbie Cornish, Alex Frost, J.D. Evermore, Ric Maddox, Mark Richard, Laurie Metcalf, Steven Strait, Tory Kittles, Margo Martindale, Troy Robinson, Peter Gerety, Robert Farrior, Maggie Siff, Benedict Taylor, Mohammad Ahmed, Cory Hart, Jeff Gibbs, James D. Dever, Peter Cornwell, Elizabeth Ingalls, Matthew Garth II, Macy Salasel, Richard Dillard, Daniella Dotti, Terry Quay, Matthew Scott Wilcox, Chandra Washington, Cora Cardona, Isreal Saldivar, David Kroll, Marie Mizener, Kasey Stevens, Ricky Calmbach, Devin Moss, Roger Edwards, David Precopia, Cameron Clapp, Weston Scott Higgins, Victor García Jr., Dania Aguirre, Mikhail Sebastian, Ben Taylor, Connett Brewer, Benny McArthur, Mike D. Daily, Bernard Escobedo, Lee Stringer, Tom Minder

Stop Loss (2008)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
March 31st, 2008

A really great movie about the current war in Iraq has yet to be released, but then maybe those will come once it is over, whenever that is, as was the case with Vietnam, Platoon, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Casualties of War, all of those did not appear until several years after American forces had left Saigon in 1975. Jarhead and Three Kings dealt with the First Gulf War, but this second one has not produced anything of phenomenal quality, except for a few documentaries. About the only Iraq war film that has gained any kind of attention so far was Brian De Palma's controversial Redacted, because of its unflattering portrayal of American soldiers.

'Stop-Loss' is the sophomore effort of Kimberly Peirce, who did the remarkable Boys Don't Cry back in 1999. It is hardly anything more than a piece of liberal anti-war activism, and while I agree with its sentiments, it should at least understand the concept of subtlety and aspire to be something more. What it does well is illustrate the chaos and violence of the war, and the opening sequence involves a group of soldiers manning a checkpoint being lured into an ambush. This is a riveting and superbly crafted scene, but most of what follows it is less compelling. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe), Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), and Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) all return home to Texas, where they are greeted and celebrated as heroes. But they have been deeply affected by their experiences in Iraq, and this kind of material has potential, but has been handled so much more effectively in The Deer Hunter and especially in The Best Years of Our Lives. Tommy is perhaps the most troubled, he descends into alcoholism, his wife leaves him, and he becomes a total emotional and psychological wreck. Steve has a loving fiancee, Michele (Abbie Cornish). Brandon pays a visit to his proud parents (Linda Emond and Ciaran Hinds). Steve decides to re-enlist, despite Michele's objections. Brandon does not ever want to go back, he grown disillusioned with the war and what he was supposed to be fighting for, but the title refers to the action that cancels his leave and will force him to return to Baghdad.

To avoid this, he goes AWOL, hitting the road with Michele in hopes of finding a solution to his dilemma, maybe talking to a compassionate senator or fleeing to Canada or Mexico if he faces a prison sentence for desertion. Some will criticize the movie I suppose for condoning Brandon's behavior, which many would see as cowardice and maybe even treason. But Brandon did serve his country, and a completed a whole tour of duty, and the point Peirce is making is that many soldiers are like Brandon, they find that their tours of duty are unfairly extended, and they are forced to stay in the battlefield against their will. This is how the government deals with manpower shortages and a war that has grown into a quagmire, draining morale and financial resources. The road trip element of the story is weak and I think entirely unnecessary. But it does provide for a rather poignant moment where Brandon visits one of his injured comrades.

He and Michele do not fall in love or anything like that, there is no romance between them, they are only friends, and they know each other through Steve, who has been Brandon's pal since childhood. Maybe Michele wanted Steve to follow Brandon's example, or wanted Brandon to talk some sense into him about re-enlisting, but Steve and Brandon each follow their own separate paths. 'Stop Loss' does focus on these men as individuals, and Phillippe is very good, and so too is Channing Tatum, surprisingly enough, considering the shallow roles he has had in the past. Levitt is an actor of extraordinary talent, but does not have a whole lot to do here, with a tertiary (at best, secondary) character. I also find it curious that Phillippe, even when made to look rugged, still looks like he is in his early twenties, with a beautifully boyish face. It might still look like that when he is 40. If only everybody were so ageless.

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