Stop-Loss

"Good"

Stop-Loss Review


Any suspicions that Kimberly Peirce was a one-note art house auteur (her first and only feature was 1999's Boys Don't Cry) will be immediately assuaged by the full-throttle war-film assuredness of the opening sequences of her Iraq war film Stop-Loss. Shot in part like the homemade videos that modern American soldiers often make of their own experiences (filmed on the battlefield and then edited, usually with pop music soundtracks, on their personal computers), it establishes with smash-bang audacity and authenticity the camaraderie and of an infantry squad serving in Tikrit near the end of their rotation. The combat witnessed is typically brutal, up-close, and all-inclusive (military and civilian) in terms of casualties. Without having to put much of anything into words, Peirce has put her fresh-faced young cast (Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) through a meat-grinder of an ordeal that makes it perfectly clear that once these guys are back stateside, patriotic or not, they're done.

Like In the Valley of Elah -- which this film occasionally seems like an MTV/Varsity Blues pop variation of -- most of Stop-Loss is set back in the States. The war is seen mostly in flickers and video-montages, the kind that keep a man up at night. In one particularly grueling scene set at a military hospital, a hideously scarred soldier missing two limbs confides that at night his ward sounds like a horror movie, with all the nightmares and screaming. Also like Elah, Peirce's script (co-written with Mark Richard) is steeped in oorah military brio and discipline, where there is little questioning of war itself. Stop-Loss is, however, a message movie, and no matter how artfully Peirce directs her cast and tries to avoid any sense of political polemic, there's just no avoiding that message, a fact that nearly scuppers the whole film.

The message of Stop-Loss is one that few on either side of the Iraq debate would argue, that the practice of the film's title -- where soldiers can have their term of service extended indefinitely in order to make up for falling recruitment levels and there being no draft -- sucks. Once the rattled squad is returned home to Texas, amidst a blizzard of flags and cheers, they seem held together with little more than duct tape and battlefield bravado. It's not hard to believe, then, the swiftness with which the formerly gung-ho squad leader Brandon King (Phillippe) reacts to the news that he's been stop-lossed and is getting sent back to Iraq. On being told by his commanding officer that it's the President's right to keep soldiers serving as long as he wishes, King (a good Texas boy and patriot who'd clearly rather light himself on fire than disrespect his country) responds, "With all due respect, sir, fuck the President."

Things go downhill after that, both for the film and for King, who goes AWOL and takes off cross-country with his best friend's ex-fiancée (Aussie actress Abbie Cornish) on a half-baked, quixotic mission to get his senator in Washington to help him. The road-film being the hoariest of screenplay devices, it wears thin fast, quickly losing the impressive momentum that the first quarter of the film had attained. By separating King from his squadmates, most of whom are undergoing some form of PTSD meltdown, Peirce also loses the cast's organic-feeling camaraderie (not to mention giving short shrift to some heartbreaking work by Gordon-Levitt), one of the best things her film had going for it.

In Stop-Loss, Peirce (whose brother served in Iraq) certainly does right by the soldiers (real and imagined) in terms of not resorting to cheap polemic from one side of the debate or the other. But even her impressive handling of the actors, a pop approach that's glossy without being shallow, voluminous background research, and some glorious cinematography by Chris Menges can't obscure the problems of a seriously dithering screenplay. It's not to say that Peirce should have rushed into something after Boys Don't Cry, but after seeing the honorable intentions but flawed results of Stop-Loss, it's possible that nine years was perhaps too long a gestation.

Aka Stop Loss.

What we need in here are some of those MIT card counters.



Stop-Loss

Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 28th March 2008

Box Office USA: $10.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $11M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Peirce Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 90 Rotten: 49

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Brandon King, as Michelle, as Tommy Burgess, as Steve Shriver, as Senator Orton Worrell

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.