Decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Brandon King makes a celebrated return to his small Texas hometown following his tour of duty. He tries to resume the life he left behind. Then, against Brandon's will, the Army orders him back to duty in Iraq, which upends his world. The conflict tests everything he believes in: the bond of family, the loyalty of friendship, the limits of love and the value of honor. Written by
Maybe the idea was to show the total hopelessness of the conflict--that it was not really a war but urban warfare, and that there is no way to win or to have a happy ending. But that's just an idea--it's not a movie.
I thought that the set-up was fine. But I am not sure the filmmakers knew where to go with it. Their take on the stop-loss policy is obvious, and it is a message that should be heard. But I think the film would have been more interesting if any character exhibited any real growth during the film. The vets were all depicted as basket cases--the most well-adjusted vet seemed to be the double-amputee--he told us why he would want to go back to Iraq and there was at least some productive purpose that would have been served by his return there.
Perhaps there are soldiers who don't mind being stop-lossed--who truly believe they are accomplishing something positive over there. It would have been refreshing to have a character like that--a non-basket case. It would have been good to hear arguments supporting the stop-loss program (if there are any).
The last 20-30 minutes of this film were baffling. The end of the film (not an ending, just an end) was very unsatisfying.
Ryan Philippe did a competent job, but rarely conveyed anything not apparent from the lines or situation. For example, you could see that a lot of his post-war angst was attributable to guilt. How that tied in with the ending is just a mystery to me.
I recall that a very similar military policy was explored by Joseph Heller in Catch-22. I think a comparison to that novel and film is more apt than comparing this to The Deer Hunter.
I wish this film could have been much better than it was.
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