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I'm a sergeant in the army and have served 2 tours in Iraq and am preparing to go a third time in December. This film was irresponsible and not balanced in it's portrayal. First off every single soldier has an 8 year commitment. However long your initial enlistment is (3,4 years etc) you then serve the remainder of your time as part of the IRR (indivdual ready reserve). Moreover every single soldier knows about stop loss. It wouldn't have been portrayed the way it was in the movie. He would have known about it ahead of time. They don't tell you the day you get out and make it a surprise. Especially as an E6 a staff sergeant. The combat scene was not realistic. Soldiers guarding a checkpoint WOULD NEVER leave it to chase a vehicle. That is general order no 1 every soldier is taught that from day 1 of basic training. Furthermore the portrayal of PTSD was not wholly accurate. The army has programs in place to treat it. The character played by Joseph Gordon Levitt would not have gotten a bad conduct discharge for breaking a window. He would have received punishment under the uniform code of military justice. For a bad conduct discharge there would have to be a pattern of behavior over a period of time and then every effort would be made to rehabilitate that soldier. The discharge would only come after that had occurred. Finally the scenes of the authorities chasing Ryan Phillipe is BS. The army does not pursue you if you go AWOl. For short awols the soldiers usually receive punishment under UCMJ. For long awols over 30 days the army drops them from the rolls and stops their pay and benefits. If you attempt to get a federal job your name is entered into a database as a deserter. Lastly the final scene is total nonsense. Assuming he was awol less than 30 days he would have been demoted at least 1 grade. He would not have kept his current rank. The soldier was portrayed as a coward. Bottom line. I know personally soldiers in my unit 1 in my squad who have been stop lossed and although they may complain EVERY one of them will do their duty honorably. This movie claims to be pro soldier but it does not portray our soldiers in an honest way and that is dishonoring the memory of all of our soldiers both alive and dead who have served and are still serving over there. Also in response to adx2-1's comment he is right about the policy. 90 days before deployment and 90 days after the unit returns to home station. And under the current dwell time policy it would have been at least a year before he returned. Although it is never stated how long it is suggested that it is less than a year.
Director Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry") brings another powerfully
charged film of such raw emotion that upon later reflection of the
movie I felt like I had witnessed real events.
Stop-Loss follows the fictional story of a soldier, Brandon King (Ryan Philippe), who has returned home after a tour in Iraq. His contract is up and he just about to get out when he is stop-lossed (a "fine-print" section in all soldiers' contracts that gives the President the power to extended soldier's contracts in time of war). He refuses to be shipped back to Iraq, and goes AWOL in search of his state's senator for help. What follows is his road trip to fight the stop-loss as well as showing the devastating affects his fellow soldiers (Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) experience from the horrible war. Its' acting, directing, and writing had such a feeling of authenticity, and combined with the fact that 81,000 of our brave soldiers have already been stop-lossed since Spetember 11,2001, this film feels like a true story.
One thing that made this film succeed so well was it's director was a woman, and she was able to make a movie were you could feel and see the emotions these guys were feeling even as they would desperately try and mask them.
The acting was extraordinary from the three main soldiers, most notably Ryan Philippe who is so gritty and real in his performance that he seems like he actually is a marine. Channing Tatum gives a genuine performance, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt's is the most haunting of the trio as a soldier who fights his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with excessive amounts of booze and slowly slips into a deep hole of despair.
This films is not a propaganda piece, it simply portrays something that is going on right now. It brings up many good points, but never bashes you with a certain viewpoint but leaves it to you to decide. This is such emotionally powerful, deeply moving film, the best film I have seen since the year started, and destined to be one of my favorites from this year.
Well intentioned, this film tells the fictional story of Brandon King
(Ryan Phillippe), an American soldier who, after successfully
completing a heroic but horrendous tour of duty in Iraq, is notified
that, despite his wishes, he must return to Iraq for yet more combat
duty, a real-life contingency called "stop-loss". It's a fate that
neither King, nor real-life soldiers, want or deserve, but which the
U.S. government justifies in lieu of a wartime draft.
The film's first few minutes provide a montage of images and scenes showing King, and his men, in Iraq, as they bond together as protective buddies, and as they endure a violent urban ambush, during which several buddies get killed or seriously wounded.
Back home in Texas, King and a couple of his men briefly celebrate their hero status. But life for them quickly deteriorates, as their wartime trauma leaves both physical and mental scars. And then, King gets his "stop-loss" notice. This sets up the rest of the film's plot.
The theme here is obvious. The brave soldier, having endured more than enough danger and trauma, is still just a powerless individual. As such, he or she is caught between having to resubmit to the horrors of war, or submit to a perilous and life-altering AWOL status in the U.S., or elsewhere, forever on the run from an overpowering American political system. It's a timely and worthy subject for a film.
That much effort and care went into the creation of the film, from background research to attention to detail in costumes, production design, and military protocol is obvious.
And the film's color cinematography also is quite good. There are lots of close-ups, to get a feel for what the characters are going through. Many scenes feature natural lighting, used in clever ways. At times, the film has an almost documentary look and feel. Acting is overall credible. I especially liked the performances of Linda Emond, as King's mom, and Abbie Cornish, as a young woman who tries to help King.
The major problem is the script. Characters are rather stereotyped and two-dimensional. The plot is fairly predictable. And the story and its attendant theme are a tad too direct. I could have wished for a little more depth, and a plot twist or two. The film's ending is not very satisfying.
Yet, "Stop-Loss" is a noble effort to document the brutality not only of war but also of an American government that uses, then basically throws away, people, to ensure the preservation of an American war industry and continued power of faceless bureaucrats and corrupt politicians.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What is bravery? Is it trying to do the right thing while facing death
in the process? What is patriotism? Is it selflessly giving to your
country your services and possibly your life to protect and idea? What
is honor? Is it following through on your responsibilities to others
who depend on you? In today's United States Army, these questions
aren't merely hypothetical, but the basis of character. Kimberly Pierce
understood this when she made her sophomore film Stop-Loss, which is
extremely likely to be my favorite film of 2008.
Stop-Loss tells the story of a group of soldiers from Texas who are coming home from Iraq. Just before they see stateside, they encounter an ambush that kills three of their respected brothers. The squad leader Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) feels responsible for the deaths. He intends to leave the service for good when he gets back along with his best friend (Channing Tatum). This is good news to Brandon's family; his father (the great Cirian Hinds) was a vet from Vietnam. This is also good news for his friend's fiancé (Abbie Cornish), whose love only shadows her loneliness.
But when Brandon turns in his gear and paperwork, he is told that he's to ship back out to Iraq on a stop-loss, which he instantly contests with his superior (Timothy Olyphant). The result has Brandon on the run as he goes AWOL to find a way out of going. He is aided by his friend's fiancé; he decides his best chance is to convince a local senator in Washington to help him. Along the way, he gets a tour of conscience. He meets the family of one of his dead men, whose brother knows about people who could get soldiers through to Canada. He also goes to see another of his comrades (Victor Russak), who was severely wounded in the conflict. And at the end, Brandon must make one of the hardest decisions that anyone will ever have to face.
Love it or hate it, this film has be one of the most unusual films dealing with war. It neither sides for the conflict in Iraq or against it, finding the argument to be beside the point. No doubt that Brandon does say something unflattering about his Commander-in-Chief in one scene, but the film makes it's bravest decision in being pro-soldier from beginning to end. We like these guys, we honor their dedication to our country and we only want them to find happiness and safety back home. But we can tell nearly from the start that coming home isn't going to be easy when tensions flare up in unpredictable ways. One of the men (played flawlessly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) seems to need violence in order to feel normal. The film doesn't hate him for it, nor do we since we know that, in the words of another great movie, he had "a bad war".
There is something to be said about the decisions made in this film. In lesser movies, Brandon's decision would be more clear-cut depending on the filmmaker's political views. There would be some who call Brandon's plight cowardice and the film addresses this by allowing Brandon to have more than a couple of emotions. He's not afraid to fight or to die, but has a more interesting reason to resist. And the film doesn't see any easy answer in the options left to him. We see the life of another AWOL soldier up-close. There's nothing pretty about that.
A lot of the success of the film has to go to the amazing casting of the film. I have never been much of a fan for Ryan Phillippe), but he might have just converted me. This is an amazing performance of such complexity and earnestness that I was left truly amazed. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been a rising independent superstar, completely washing away his child actor days in films that are challenging, playing parts that require his brand of smooth ferocity. This character is important even though he does little for the plot by being a tragic figure. I believe he might see his first nomination for this role. But my favorite performance may also be the most worthy of the Oscar this year: Abbie Cornish. Cornish isn't just throwing diamonds as a young woman in love with an impossible man.
Stop-Loss might just be the best military film since Platoon that deals with soldiers as individuals and not part of a strategy board. Kimberly Pierce, whose first and only other film was Boys Don't Cry, sees soldiers in a way that other filmmakers haven't (and those filmmakers are almost exclusively male, a few veterans themselves). She declares that she had documented hundreds of interviews with soldiers. This is one of the extremely rare cases that fiction proves to be the better format over documentary. In making this a fictional tale, she can tell a broader story and accompany the emotional journey of all her characters. She did this with her first film, which told the sad story of Brandon Teena. I didn't think that she could have made a better film than that. She has proved that she could and has.
All in all, I love this film and cannot recommend this to enough people. It's going to be attacked unfairly by the pro-war crowd who either feel that the film encourages wrong behaviors or weakening morale. In fact, I think that the film shows the real indomitable spirit of the fighting men with honor. But I also find that those who attack movies like these usually think that the best way to support the troops is to keep them in harms way. Stop-Loss isn't a cry to "cut and run". It's a testament that soldiers will remain honorable no matter how they come home. Something that John McCain might keep in mind
Just saw this film in an advance screening and once the tension and
threat (very real) of the opening battle scenes were borne and past,
the film grew on me, as the story became one of the soldiers at home:
their war aftermath and their war that just won't quit or let them go.
It occurred to me at one point this was quite like watching a "Deer Hunter" for the Iraq war. There were certainly similar aspects, including aspects of the soldiers' relationships with each other and with others at home, and in terms of the casualties and injuries that continue to pile up well after leaving the battlefield.
Stop Loss is perhaps a more political film than the "Deer Hunter" was, because of the timing of its release, while the issues of the war in the film are still very much on the boil in the USA. I think it intends to position itself in a relevant and timely place, and time will tell whether it has staying power as a lasting and powerful war or antiwar film.
There is enough humanity, good drama and strong acting in this picture that it may deserve a place in the lineup of memorable or important American war films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had an opportunity to attend an advanced screening of this film
yesterday in Boulder CO. I am not in any way affiliated with film
industry or the critique. I was just a lucky walk in.
I've seen a preview of this movie a few days before and was not impressed by the trailer. It looked like another belated anti-war movie (better late then never), with youthful actors looking ruggedly pretty for the camera.
What I saw was a fist full of reality mixed with a great story of, I guess, a youth becoming a man not in a sexual way.
The plot is obvious from the trailer, so there is nothing I can give away. The ending was not surprising, at least to me. And the ending was both obvious and powerful.
The beginning is very life like. If you've seen Gunner Palace, or been to this war, you'll recognize it. It starts in a format of home movies made by soldiers who serve in Iraq. It was apparently based on the films and photographs shot by actual soldiers. Some of this footage was included into these opening sequences, much was recreated by the actors. So it is ultra realistic. The only way to tell them apart is to look for Ryan Philippe, who is good in his role but stands out due to being easily recognizable.
The film quickly moves into a war sequence, demonstrating the horrors of war. Do not expect to see the charge of the light brigade. It is not a massive battle, but you will see the bullets flying, and more importantly killing. If you were put off by the violence in Saving Private Ryan, you may want to close your eyes for a few minutes at this point. Past the gun battle we are back in the States. So the Iraq part is only about 20 minutes.
The real story kicks in when Ryan Philippe with his war buddies returns home a decorated war hero looking forward to put the past behind him only to find out that his contract was extended by the Stop Loss policy and he is to go back to Iraq. The film does not become boring or preachy. And through the main character's journey both we and he realize that he has very few options: go to jail, abandon (physically) the country and everything he is and has, or go back to war. What choice can he make? So what was my point about the "becoming a man" story? Well, the way I see it, the main character's final decision, is not just forced on him. It springs not from fear or just inevitability, but from his sense of responsibility towards his parents and friends I'm not going to say 'country', this has nothing to do with flag waving patriotism. His accepting to go back, is an act of an adult. He accepts all the horror, the risk, the BS, the unfairness. He does it through a conscious decision. The decision is to take care of those who depend on him. That sounds pretty grown up to me.
Thanks go out to Kimberly Peirce, who wrote and directed this film. And directly in front of whom I was sitting quietly last night while she was presenting her movie.
You also may want to check out Harsh Times, Gunner Palace and The Execution of Private Slovik.
It's horrible that we need a new one, you'd think people would learn
their lesson the first, or hundredth, time they were taught it. But
anyway, the movie is pretty good. At the very beginning it reminded me
of 'Redacted' and then later 'In the Valley of Elah' and you could say
with most movies that that would be a detriment but they're all telling
stories about the same subject. So it's not like anyone is copying
This movie is more movie-ish than those I mentioned. It works as entertainment(that sounds wrong) as well as being informative. It's showing you a certain situation people are going through but it's also a "movie", with action scenes, good acting, relationship issues, etc. As I said the acting is good. Ryan Phillipe is I want to say underrated, but maybe he's not rated at all. He's an extremely good looking person who could have just been in romantic comedies and made some nice money that way, but instead he's carved out an interesting resume for himself. He does some of his best work here. Joseph Gordon Levitt, everyone's favorite young indie actor, shows up here as well, although he has a smaller role than he normally does. He and the rest of the cast were also really good. Ciaran Hinds makes an interesting cowboy, btw. I wouldn't have guessed that. The only problem I may have had with the film is that I didn't like the ending. But that doesn't take away from the fact that I think this is a well-made movie.
The film is serious. It'll probably be depressing for most people. But hey life is depressing right now. Especially for people involved in this situation and maybe those folks should consider whether they should really watch it or not. Because I would think they'd want to escape that reality. The people who aren't paying attention to what's going on should see it. I'd have less problem recommending this to them. I think it's the least likely of the Iraq based movies to offend anyone. It's got a few violent war scenes but nothing over-the-top or terribly graphic. It's just basically wave at you saying "hel-lo, this is the stuff you're trying to ignore but should really be paying attention to.' There is a normal amount of cursing and no naked people that I can remember.
If you haven't been watching the Iraq war centered movies, it's time you saw one and this would probably be the easiest to take.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I saw the preview, I thought it would be an accurate portrayal on
how stop-loss affects soldiers. Unfortunately, it was a little off the
wall in how it showed Brandon getting stop-lossed. In reality,
stop-loss takes place 90 days prior to deployment and stays in effect
until 90 days after the soldier returns. Each unit is given one year of
"dwell time" in the US, which means they won't deploy during that
period. The film's portrayal of Brandon getting stop-lossed only a week
after he returned from Iraq to go to Iraq again for another tour a few
weeks later was as realistic as shooting 100 rounds from an M4 without
changing the magazine once. Also, with his actions after he was
stop-lossed (saying f*** the President, going AWOL, etc...) he wouldn't
have just went back to Iraq still a Staff Sergeant like he did at the
end of the movie. He probably would have gotten a court-martial
Other than those things, it isn't a bad movie. Just inaccurate. I served three tours in Iraq already and I was stop-lossed for my second one. I knew I was stop-lossed over three months before I left, they didn't wait until two weeks before it was time to go to tell me I was stop-lossed. I made the decision to reenlist later on instead of getting out at the end of my second tour.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First I have to explain my situation.....my husband is in Kuwait in
holding to go to Iraq for his first tour. A group of us
wives/girlfriends saw it last night. We were expecting to shed some
tears and instead left angry. Don't get me wrong I loved the movie and
will buy it when it comes out on DVD..I DO LOVE HOW IT WILL BRING THE
EMOTIONS OUT OF YOU GOOD AND BAD... LET ME EXPLAIN....
1. All soldiers are informed of STOP-LOSS when they enlist. I'm sure most don't think that it will happen to them.
2. P.T.S.D....what some people have called Gulf War syndrome is REAL and is was well done in this movie...yes soldiers may beat a wife, get drunk, and yes take their own life. THIS IS REAL!!! Thank you for not sugar coating this!!!! 3. I was very upset in the women in this movie....kicking your husband out of the house after the stress of war.... then turning around and having the nerve to cry as they lower him into the ground.....then a soon to be wife not being able to wait for her soldier to finish one more tour of duty.....A mother helping a son run from what they both know is a duty that can not be helped...that is what he signed up to do.
4. Was happy to see that one soldier was able to rise up from all of the pain and loss. To become the soldier that he knew he could be....I also felt sorry for him for not having the support that he needed.
5. In real life the AWOL soldier would not have gotten off that easy.....demoted and docked a full months pay.......
THIS MOVIE IS PLAYED OUT IN REAL LIFE EVERY TIME A SOLDIER COMES HOME......YOU NEED TO THANK A VET FOR EVERYTHING THAT THEY DO...BECAUSE IF IT WEREN'T FOR THEM WE WOULDN'T EVEN BE ABLE TO MAKE OR WATCH THE MOVIES THAT WE ALL ENJOY OR VOICE OUR COMMENTS ON.
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
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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