I wanted to see this movie because it seemed moving and relevant. I wasn’t familiar with the military’s stop-loss policy, so I did some research to find out about it. It’s basically a clause in a soldier’s contract that allows the president to extend his period of service. It sucks because it’s like a “backdoor draft.” Like Carlito said, just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.
Ryan Phillippe (Crash) is Brandon King, a decorated Army sergeant who just led his men into a deadly ambush in Iraq. One man was lost, and another was seriously wounded. When he returns home to Texas he reminds anyone who’ll listen that he’s done his time and is getting out. When he goes to turn in all of his equipment, he’s informed that he has been stop-lossed and will be re-deployed to Iraq. What follows is a depiction of Brandon’s struggle to accept the fact that Uncle Sam basically owns his ass. He panics, he feels helpless, angry, and betrayed. He served his country as a loyal patriot and feels like the Army is not keeping their end of the bargain. The movie is unabashedly critical of the war, showing the cruelty of the stop-loss policy and the horrors of Iraq. However, it also shows the flipside of Phillippe’s character in the form of his best friend, Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum, Step Up). Steve is all about the red, white, and blue through and through. In a way they all are: Steve, Brandon (initially), and fellow soldier Tommy.
Stop-Loss was okay. Ryan Phillippe is a very very good actor. He infused Brandon with the appropriate amount of anger and heroism. His character wants out of Iraq, but he never seemed weak or cowardly, and I think that’s a reflection of the confidence and bravado Phillippe brought to the role. Of course I have criticisms, and they really stood out. Stop-Loss was produced by MTV Films, which may explain the music video-ish approach to some of the Iraq montage scenes in the movie. It also felt a little formulaic. Soldiers joking around and displaying juvenile male camaraderie? Check. Lots of pushing and shoving? Check. Cursory portrayal of post traumatic stress disorder? Check. Regarding the performances, I think Channing Tatum is a capable actor. He cried convincingly and I was impressed by that. He’s also nice to look at. My problem is that there was a 10 minute stretch when he broke into a TX drawl, and then he resumed his normal speaking voice. It was obvious. Does your character have an accent or not??!! I mean, I always wonder how no one catches the fact that a character is dropping in and out of an accent. I can excuse one word or two, but this was more than a slip. I’ll keep the other criticisms to myself so I don’t give anything away. I don’t think Stop-Loss stacks up well against other war movies. Jarhead puts it to shame, and I won’t even mention any of the older classics that portrayed the Vietnam War. Stop-Loss’ value lies in its current relevance, and it will be remembered as capturing people’s dissatisfaction and frustration with the war in Iraq. There’s something to be said for that, but the movie was solid, not great. It’s also depressing, so I wouldn’t see it unless you’re a fan of Phillippe or Channing Tatum. If you are then I’m sure you’ll enjoy.