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Stop-Loss More at IMDbPro »

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

This road trip, although mostly rewarding, is unavoidably rough.

Author: Jamie Ward from United Kingdom
7 October 2008

The war movie has never been an easy thing to create, and over the course of history, it's hard to pinpoint any other genre of film that has managed to strike up as much controversy and debate. Stop-Loss is no different from those that reside within its close proximity, yet despite its ability to strike up conversation, to get the mind thinking and to question war itself, an obvious lack of sustainable narrative hurts the film where it matters most. Overlong, poorly focused and incoherent, the storytelling element of Kimberly Peirce's ambitious project here doesn't do as much justice to the themes of the script as she would probably have hoped to. To be fair, there is some hard-hitting material here, and characters along with their respective performers are rounded enough to avoid being mere place holders for ideas, and as such Stop-Loss does manage to retain a strong gasp upon the attention. Yet lumbered with a tedious middle act and an ending that seems ill at ease with itself, the ride, although mostly rewarding, is unavoidably rough.

In what is best compared to such war movies as the classic DeNiro and Michael Cimino film The Deer Hunter and Brian De Palma's effort from earlier this year, Redacted, Stop Loss is the kind of war movie that discusses war through its characters rather than the event itself. Negating Iraq to the opening ten minutes, Peirce and crew here adopt more of a road movie layout, detailing the concept of being Stop-Lossed, and the effects it can have on any soldier unlucky enough to be put through such a policy. On the run from his government, friends and fellow soldiers, lead character Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) spends much of the film coming to terms with how much of his life that he left behind many years ago has disintegrated while he has been away. Isolated and trying to find a way out of his predicament, King is an intriguing character who offers insight into the broken down psyche of an ex-soldier and during certain scenes Phillippe conveys such emotions and states of mind adequately. In this regard King is relatively close to DeNiro's 'Michael', and while Phillippe doesn't necessarily touch on what made Michael such a memorable character, the bare essentials are here and he does a decent job of what is offered to him.

Not satisfied with telling just one story however, the script takes its time to flesh out backing characters that grew up and served with King. These additions are welcome yet underused; there is a severe imbalance here between the lead character and his friends, and while one can accept this as part of having a 'lead-character', I couldn't help but notice that Stop-Loss could have worked far more effectively as a character study focusing on more than its central persona. Although King's comrades do get ample screen time, their eventual climaxes and turning points fail to resonate as much as they should, and as a result, the movie's statements and themes never deliver quite as much poignancy as they aim to. Yet again however, the performers themselves do a fine job with what they are given and deliver some sturdy performances that mesh with Phillippe's to create a solid wall of realism to bounce off of.

The best war movies it would seem are those that never necessarily take it upon themselves to overtly make statements on war regarding its pros and cons, and instead simply tell the story as it is. Whilst watching Stop-Loss, one gets the sense that director Kimberly Peirce has kept this in mind during the process but then never quite managed to overcome the script's obvious slant towards criticism of the war. Yet if there is a bias here, it is remote and minute; not because the writers chose to sit on the fence but simply through the fact that they tell a character story first and foremost rather than try to create a politically enlightening piece of propaganda. Such is the film's strength and its weakness. On the one hand, the drama is welcome and the performances involved ensure that the best moments are engaging and compelling. On the other hand however, a distinct lack of focus in this area quickly causes the movie's middle act to tread along at an uneven pace which often stutters and fumbles. With a tighter reign on what it is the movie was trying to say, and a deeper, centralised focus on character and the domestic drama involved with the political ramifications that have got them here, Stop-Loss could have been a lot more effective. Yet for what it is, those interested in the subject itself should find something to enjoy here.

- A review by Jamie Robert Ward (

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A solid war film, (anti-war in many ways)

Author: PersianPlaya408 from Milpitas, California
3 August 2008

A good movie about showing some of the downsides of war (well in a lot of people's opinion there really is no upside), Peirce's film does a good job examining some of the social effects of the war and how soldier's are affected. The problem with stop-loss is at times its a bit tiring, but and some of the actors' inexperience shows. However overall it does a good job conveying its message with a good score from John Powell and decent cinematography from Chris Menges. The editing was a bit flawed at times it wasn't always interesting, but overall, i thought it was well-written, well-acted for the most part, and certainly a good addition to the war film genre, as its a bit more realistic than a lot of the glorifying war films. Its not as good as David Ayer's Harsh Times, but its a different kind of film, and both were necessary in my eyes. This film also features Joseph Gordon Levitt with another very good performance- IMDb Rating: 6.5. MY Rating: 8/10

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Compelling, but not necessarily satisfying

Author: Tony43 from Los Angeles
9 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

-----------------------------spoiler alert -------------------- Kimberly Peirce's first film since "Boys Don't Cry" tackles a big topic, maybe one that is too big for any director to attempt to cover in a single film. The irony is, she accomplishes her goals in terms of making a riveting movie, but perhaps fails in efforts to truly illuminate as complex an issue as the war in Iraq.

The plot is that Army sergeant Ryan Phillippe, a veteran of both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, finds out on the day he is mustering out of the Army that he is being stop lossed, meaning sent back involuntarily for another combat tour in Iraq.

But plot holes develop almost as quickly as he finds himself conscripted in what he refers to as a back door draft.

The first problem is that he immediately jumps the tracks and goes AWOL, when his carefully crafted image from the early parts of the movie show him to be a thoughtful, highly responsible soldier. Yes, he might eventually break the rules and jump ship, but not immediately and the film would have been even more interesting if he'd fought his situation through legal channels before deserting.

From there, a lot of the film deals with another problem, the post traumatic stress syndrome he and his small town Texas buddies are facing, in his case, largely because he led his men into a rather obvious ambush while in Baghdad, a trap that got his best friend killed and others wounded.

From there, the film deals with his life on the run, ironically with the ex-fiancé of another of his buddies, and that life affords a look at the white working class background upon which America's all volunteer Army is now built. While a little clichéd, it does remind us that there are tens of thousands of troops from that very background, many of whom seem to know or understand almost nothing about the war they have volunteered to fight.

______________________spoiler-------------------------- In the end, Phillippe's character turns himself in and winds up climbing aboard the bus that is the first step on the road back to Iraq. The trouble with the scene is it comes as a shock and its hard to know whether the filmmaker was saying Philippe was wrong all along, or that the average guy is just no match for the pressures being a good, dutiful American place on a young man.

Its sort of like Congress getting a clear mandate from voters in November of 2006 to end the war, but doing virtually nothing about it, because Democrats don't have the votes to overcome a Republican veto and then take the heat that would follow.

Whatever the message, it seemed to me to be a somewhat muddled one, and there is not much resolution to the story, as what it gives us is an ending that would have been more powerful had it come down hard on one side of the issue or the other.

Still, this film in all fairness works as a movie up to the end and I would not stay away just because it falls down there.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Stop-Loss is like a recall to Hell.

Author: Michael O'Keefe from Muskogee OK
28 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Inspirational. Honest. A freeze-frame focus on loyalty and camaraderie. Brandon King(Ryan Phillippe)returns with whats left of his unit to a homecoming celebration in Brazos, Texas. The hometown hero can't do a damn thing wrong...wrong. Brandon's mother(Linda Emond) is at her heart's content knowing her boy is home for good. Stop-Loss rears its ugly head. SSgt. King is ordered back to Iraq for another tour of duty. His mind battles with the reentry to a normal civilian life on the Texas ranch and the government's demand he and his unit return to a sandy unappreciated war. Brandon goes AWOL and has to wrestle with the thought of life in exile and being forced to forget memories, family and friendships. The situation will test the threads of SSgt. King's very soul and being. This new generation of soldier has troubles with being exalted heroes.

Volatile visions of war-time violence. Powerful, disturbing images of conflict. And expected strong language. STOP-LOSS pushes bounds of emotion. A very strong supporting cast features: Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timothy Olyphant, Victor Rasuk and an impressive Abbie Cornish.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Nice Effort But Can't Quite Succeed

Author: tabuno from utah
11 April 2008

There are some good moments in this Anti-War movie but there are some technical problems and a less than superb script, plot. The MTV inserts at the beginning with musical video segments of the war seem more disruptive and unnecessary (at least to the older generation) and furthermore than fade out and aren't used in the last two-thirds of the movie. There are some editing problems, in at least two places (a brief shot of writing on a pad and the cut to father and then son later in the movie seems out of sync). The cinematography varies, especially at the beginning portion of the movie that don't seem to serve much purpose. There appears to be too much effort to dramatize and reduce the complexity of reality into various two-dimensional characters representative of several archetypes of the sick and wounded coming out of the Iraq conflict. And the ending is perhaps too pat or too conveniently American. Nevertheless through out the movie there are some strong scenes, some riveting experiences of the conflict in Iraq and at home. The relationships in the movie are decent, especially the female/male relationships handled much more realistic than most movies. Unfortunately, this movie never quit offers up enough character development, relational backstory, and for the ending enough of an understanding explanation that is instead sort of the cop-out twist ending that fails to really satisfy. Seven out of Ten Stars.

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A well thought out, powerful, and moving film.

Author: DarkVulcan29 ( from United States
6 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film I hope will sweep away the Oscars in 2009, because it was a great believable film, and it had great believable performances by Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Channing Tatum, and Joseph Gordon Levitt. It begins with soldiers from Iraq who are coming home, But for three good friends, Brandon(Ryan Phillippe), Steve(Channing Tatum), and Tommy(Joesph Gordon Levitt) all in there own way, are emotionally destroyed from the war. Brandon discovers that he is reported to return back to Irag because of the Stop Loss policy. But Brandon refuses, cause he does not want to do anymore killing, or get anymore soldiers killed. He soon goes on the run with Steve's girlfriend Michelle(Abbie Cornish), but is this a fight Brandon can win, will he go back to Iraq, or go to jail? It was well directed by Kimberly Pierce who also directed the masterpiece Boy's Don't Cry(1999). This movie shows us a frightening reality of a never ending war, and the men and women who suffer for it. Abbie Cornish who was last seen in A Good Year(2006), and Elizabeth:The Golden Years(2007), really does well here, I hope she will have a long career ahead her. This film is a true masterpiece.

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A Gutless Movie About Courage

Author: Nick Lento from United States
5 April 2008

Stop Loss went through at least 60 rewrites by different people; and it shows.

All the political rough edges were removed so that what remains is a movie that tries so hard to come down on both sides of the issues that it fails as a story.

The trailer was fantastic; if only the actual movie had lived up to that promise.

The very real "Stop Loss" policy is indeed absolutely insane and destructive.....the movie makes that case clearly enough, and that's why it gets a six.

If you need to be convinced that the policy is an atrocity; then do go see the movie asap........Otherwise; save your money.

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4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A story of a deserter

Author: bigredone-4 from United States
10 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After watching Stop-Loss, I find myself against disappointed in Hollywood for making such a stinker. Gone are the days of glory of the films of the 1940's that made one proud to be an American, fighting the evilness that desires conquest abroad and death at home. What we are left with is dribble frothing at the mouth of rabid anti-Bush radicals. The story tells of three young men who return home from the war. One descends into out-of-control madness, culminating in his death. The main protagonist deserts his country at a time of war, and destroys his best friends relationship with his fiancé at the same time. The third truly is the hero of the story, electing to continue the fight that was brought to our shores nearly eight years ago. What makes this movie bad, is not the acting, but the premise behind it. We are lead to believe that decorated soldiers are in fact haters of our country. Desertion is akin to treason in a time of war, and the main protagonist flirts with it throughout the movie. This paradox is designed to weaken the audience's reaction to the central act of the movie. We are not supposed to find fault with King, since he wears medals, but his actions don't just merit it, but cry out for it. He is not an anti-hero. In order to accept the movie, the audience must accept the correctness of desertion because the story paints King as nothing else short of a hero. I cannot accept that, since it is like asking me to call the sky yellow on a clear blue day. Furthermore, derision for the real hero is heaped upon, the man who re-enlists and continues to serve his country. I would only recommend this stinker to someone who needs convincing of the decay of Hollywood, as it is a clear example of it. No wonder it fared poorly in the box office.

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4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Very Intense, but I Liked It...

Author: Jaclyn from Nova Scotia, Canada
13 April 2008

I found this movie incredibly sad and intense, but how could it not be? The subject matter was very heavy and dealt with real problems facing soldiers in the American military. I appreciated it, because I had no idea stop loss even happened to people, I feel a lot more informed after seeing this movie and think everyone should see it.

The cast was great Abbie Cornish (who is Australian) pulled off a great Texas accent, I really liked her character as well. Ryan Philippe played his character with awesome intensity.

I did leave the theatre with a sad feeling, but felt more informed and kinda outraged at the American government.

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4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Read the cards Shorty…Stop-Loss

Author: jaredmobarak from buffalo, ny, usa
29 March 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss is the perfect example of a film that can show whether you like the medium or the stories. I think I can tell myself that I am a true film fanatic after watching this because I thought it was a great piece of work. I've come to this conclusion because while I would see it again and recommend it to friends, I cannot condone one iota of it. It is blatantly anti-war, anti-American, and probably the worst thing that can happen in the US right now. Moral in the war and the troops cannot be helped at all with this very message-driven story. Despite all that, though, I really enjoyed my time with these characters despite how vain and selfish they are. The emotions are real and Peirce shows once again how authentic she can make the South look and feel with a nice rendering of Texas.

Despite all those personal reservations and the fact that this film could damage people's outlooks on a war they already don't agree with, as an entry to the world of cinema, it is very effective. I would compare it to The Deer Hunter in its portrayal of wartime clichés without making them feel forced or stereotypical, (not for being even close to the masterpiece that Vietnam movie is, but I could call this an MTV generation's version). We have the newly weds rejoining after a tour of duty and the hardships that entails, we have the injured soldier banished to a wheelchair and a life of blindness, the soldier so taken out of reality that being a soldier is all he knows, and the entire group suffering from mild to extreme Gulf War Syndrome on full display. Credit Peirce for showing it all realistically and somewhat sympathetically, never wholly to manipulate the audience, but instead to just tell the story she wanted to tell. Her directing style is effective as well, from the hand-held look and feel of the alley ambush at the start, the grainy home-film of the troops letting off steam during downtime, to the dark close-ups following the group around back in America. For those intense scenes of violence she deftly cuts in footage from Iraq with what is happening on screen. The sequence with Phillippe and the thieves who stole Abbie Cornish's purse is very memorable. Both from the choreography and brutality as well as the reverting back to his Sergeant self, engaging an enemy that is manifested in his mind. Peirce's only misstep is with the concealing of an event back in Iraq upon Phillippe saving Channing Tatum. To show this scene towards the end of the movie, a scene so out of the blue because it was never alluded to before, was blatant manipulation. She was doing so well at allowing everything to happen on course, until she spliced that harrowing moment to make us hate the war even more. The whole movie could be seen as manipulating the truth, but that instance was the one that made me angry.

A big part of my enjoyment, though, is in the fantastic acting by a strong troupe of young thespians. Emotions run high throughout, from extreme happiness to the depths of utter pain and sorrow. The two characters we spend the most time with are Phillippe and Cornish. He is really amazing in his portrayal of the leader in the field and off it. His ability to diffuse the situations cropping up with his friends and soldiers is well played. The slow devolution of his façade that everything is all right is also great. He is the one with his head on straight, but when pushed against a wall, the psyche shows its imperfections. Kudos to Victor Rasuk as Rico. His outlook on the life he must lead from now on was an interesting thing to see. The juxtaposition of his injuries to the smile and disposition talking with his friend is tough to assimilate. War is most definitely hell, and I liked the lingering shot of him as his two visitors leave the room; his realization and snap back to the reality of being in that bed alone with only his memories of a full life that was there for the taking.

My favorites, however, are Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum. Gordon-Levitt has made a name for himself playing the troubled young adult dealing with inner demons. There is a lot of his character from Manic here as he attempts to reconcile his feelings of relief and happiness to be home with those of hatred and revenge in wanting to go back to the Middle East to cause havoc. Tatum, on the other hand, was a big surprise. I guess when given a role that doesn't entail dancing or pretending to be an athlete, the guy can bring some talent to the table. As the one who sees a future for himself in the army, unsure whether to pursue it or to stay with the people he promised five years prior, he shows the conflict and inability to be the person he wants to be and the one they want at the same time. All his feelings towards Phillippe for his abandonment are true and I feel the only thing that is at all times real. This character is what kept me from completely writing the film off as anti-war propaganda. He knew his job and saw what fighting the law could do to those close to him. He must watch the world implode while his best friend leaves him to clean up his mess. It's a turn that I wasn't quite sure he had in him and maybe will make me buy into some of his hype.

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