Published on July 11th, 2008 | by Chris0
When you go into a movie expecting less, and wind up getting way more, that's usually a good thing (I need to start watching every film this way!) and Stop-Lossis no exception.
Honestly, from what I'd heard I was expecting a Redacted-style bash-fest. Thank God that's not what I found. Stop-Loss is a film that, at its core, could have been made in 1991, 1969, 1952, or 1945. Its a story about the veteran coming home, and the trials he faces as he returns a changed man, to a world that he vaguely remembers, but no longer quite fits in the same way. Alright, I'll concede that there is another aspect to the story of Stop-Loss, but we'll get to that later, as it really isn't that important to getting the most from this picture.
After errantly leading his squad into an ambush in Iraq (even *I* was like, "Don't drive into the alley! It's a trap! Duh!) and losing a few of his men, Staff Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) returns home to his west-Texas hometown with his soldiers-in-arms and friends Steve (Channing Tatum), Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and "Eyeball" (Rob Brown.) He and his buds are hailed as heroes, a role which they really don't seem to fit.
The first night back it's painfully clear that these guys returned different from when they left. From Steve's drunken flashback, digging a foxhole in his girlfriend Michelle's (Abbie Cornish) front yard, to Tommy, who drinks himself into a stupor from which he'll never return. Both of these guys wind up on the outs with their girlfriends, which only complicates matters.
Still there is Brandon, who remains the most level-headed among them. He's done, you see. His tour is up, and he's ready to return to life on the ranch. But Uncle Sam has other ideas, and the drama begins. He's "a victim" of the military's "Stop Loss" policy, which basically means that they've got him and there's nothing he can do about it. Furious that he'll have to return to Iraq and face more of the same, he blows up at his CO, and makes a run for it as he's led to the brig.
He and Steve's Ex, Michelle decide to make the road trip to Washington, to find the Senator who pinned the Bronze Star on his chest. But now that he's AWOL, and a fugitive, nobody seems to want to help him, and after a few episodes and mis-adventures, he eventually returns home....
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that none of the above really matters. This isn't about the road-trip to DC. It's about returning from war, and dealing with the evil and terrible things you've had to deal with, and be a part of. From Steve's decision to continue his military career and start sniper school, to Tommy's eventual suicide, and Brandon's running from his situation.... That's what its about. That's what you should take away from the movie. All the political crap that starts the picture, the whole "stop-loss policy sucks" thing, and the closing frames where the film is basically ruined by a couple of title frames whining about said policy.
Speaking of the end of the picture. Maybe I missed something, but I just don't understand it. (Spoiler Warning!) We really needed to get some insight into *why* King decided to turn himself in and resign his fate to the Army. The "thousand-yard stare" while he's sitting on the bus, with even more fresh recruits from his hometown really doesn't tell us anything. Did he just decide that he couldn't run forever? That he couldn't leave his family? After all of that, he just says, "Er, yeah, you're right, my bad" and goes back to "the shit?" I just don't get it. Maybe its supposed to be up to us to figure out why he did it, if so it just didn't work for me.
Stop-Loss is a well-acted film. Performances are good all around, for the most part. Nobody inparticular comes to mind as standing out as bad, anyway. I also have to drop kudos to the writers and director, for *not* letting Brandon and Michelle get romantically involved. I thought for sure that they'd head down that road and make a distracting complication to the story. Thanks. (Actually this point is touched on during the "deleted scenes" commentary on the DVD.)
Watch Stop-Loss for the drama of the story, in that respect its a very good film, but only if you ignore the "premise" of it all.
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Decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) makes a celebrated return to his small Texas hometown following his tour of duty. He tries to resume the life he left behind with the help and support of his family and his best friend, Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), who served with him in Iraq...
DVD InformationBinding: DVD
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: Paramount Pictures
Manufacturer: Paramount / MTV
Original Release Date:
- Ryan Phillippe
- Abbie Cornish
- Channing Tatum
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Summary: Stop-Loss is a well-acted film. Performances are good all around, for the most part. Nobody inparticular comes to mind as standing out as bad, anyway. I also have to drop kudos to the writers and director, for *not* letting Brandon and Michelle get romantically involved. I thought for sure that they'd head down that road and make a distracting complication to the story. Thanks.