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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After watching "Stop-Loss," I noticed later in the day a commercial for
it which indicated that this was produced by MTV films or something
like that. I thought this was appropriate because while I watched
"Stop-Loss," I couldn't help but notice that this film really would've
worked better on the small screen.
Ryan Phillippe plays the role of Brandon King, a young soldier who, after having served on over 150 missions in Iraq and seen the deaths of both the men under his command and civilians, is excited about the prospect of returning home after having done his duty for his country.
While turning in his gear and filing his paperwork, he is informed that he is to be shipped back to Iraq: although he has done his time and served his country, his Commander in Chief has the explicit right to unilaterally extend his tour without his knowledge or authorization.
Of course this isn't the only thing going on while the soldiers are back in the USA. Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds himself constantly in trouble as he battles alcohol addiction. Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), Brandon's best friend, returns to his girlfriend and assaults her while digging in a fox hole on their front lawn and arming himself with a handgun mere feet from a road where pedestrians and vehicles pass by.
It is on this level that I believe "Stop-Loss" ultimately fails. In the motion picture format, this story has to be constricted into 90 or 120 minutes, and as a result the focus is almost exclusively on Brandon. His outrage at having to report back to Iraq; his odyssey in traveling to meet a Senator who he thinks will help him get out; his coming into contact with many other Stop-Loss victims; his decision first to head for Canada, then Mexico, before he ultimately decides that he has to return to the military.
In the duration of the story, Steve goes from unstable to willing re-enlisting, though there's no perspective on this. As Tommy's life disintegrates, Steve tries to guilt Brandon into returning. Tommy is ultimately discharged, and commits suicide: the tragedy is effective, however without really allowing us to witness the back story here of the other characters, there is an artificial melodrama feel to it! I also must admit that, after initially feeling sympathy for Steve's precarious mental stability, I began to really dislike him in this story. He hits his girlfriend and really never apologizes for it- he merely says he couldn't remember it. He over and over again judges and tries to guilt Brandon into abandoning what he feels is justice, and then when Brandon comes to Tommy's grave to pay his respects, Steve assaults him! Steve has re-enlisted because he wanted to be a sniper where he could hit his targets from further away and be in less danger- he does this and ultimately sacrifices his fiancée (he never discussed it with her), and still at the end has the nerve to, when Brandon seems to extend the olive branch, seem rather indifferent.
I recommend the film rather strongly, but I feel like if it had been a TV movie, it would've really been something special!
After a tour of duty in Iraq that almost kills him a soldier returns
home only to find that he's going to have to go back as part of the
Stop Loss program of the military thats being used to keep numbers of
Good, earnest, well acted tale is one of the better Iraq films to come out. That said I don't know if that really means much. Watching the film I'm forced to wonder if anyone is capable of making a great (or even totally good from start to finish) film about the war. Don't get me wrong its not bad, but on some level haven't we, or I, seen this all before? Its very much like any number of other war films, and while the high quality of the acting and the direction do count for much there was a moment where I forgot what I was watching because it all blended together with all the other Iraq films.
The opening Iraq scenes kind of doomed the film for me, since while they are well done, they are like any number of other films that have come out recently.They particularly reminded me of Home of the Brave with Samuel L Jackson-as did a chunk of the rest of the film. There is such a lack of imagination concerning Iraq scenes now that I was thinking that they make up "The banality of the Iraq war". Forgive me but what I see on You Tube and elsewhere looks better than this, it all looks more real (yes I know it is). I even prefer chunks of Brian De Palma's Redacted (which I hate), to the same patrol shots with the same sort of attacks, with the same GI bull crap.
I'm getting off on a tangent here- ultimately this is a good, but not great film thats worth a look. Though I have a feeling that if you haven't seen a good number of Iraq films see this one since its one of the best (with the Valley of Elah)
Last year, the film industry produced a series of Iraq-war based films
that flopped immensely at the box office. Stop-Loss appears to be no
different, and that's a true shame because this one actually deserves
praise and deserves to be a success; because it's brilliant. Films like
Lions for Lambs or In the Valley of Elah dealt with conspiracy in the
government and the politics of the war, or the battles happening over
there. With this the films try to strike an emotional chord with
audiences who have no experience in the war; people who aren't soldiers
but may be related to them or have no real connection to the war
whatsoever. But in doing so they develop a cold, unemotional feeling
that I can't get over and disables me from making any kind of emotional
connection to the characters and as a result I end up disliking the
Stop-Loss couldn't be more different and that's why it succeeds so admirably. Its name is derived from a horrific injustice that's being used on soldiers (a sort of backdoor draft which allows the military to send soldiers back into combat after they've completed their military contract) but the actual use of stop-loss is just the motivation to get the plot going. Not to say that this tactic the military employs is taken lightly in the film. Director Kimberly Peirce hits us hard with the tragic, dirty-handed use of force that the military uses but its effect on the soldiers takes a backseat to the torturous experience of trying to get back to their life after fighting through the horrors of war. The film focuses primarily on three soldiers and all three men have their own wrenching story about trying to cope with life after the war.
The film opens up in Iraq as an attack on a group of soldiers leads a chase scene through a barren city and into a narrow alley. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) leads these soldiers into the alley, where an ambush strikes them. The next few minutes are some of the most wrenching, horrifying moments of war I've seen on screen. A grenade rolls into the alley and Rico Rodriguez (Victor Rasuk) dives to protect one of his fellow soldiers. As a result, half of his skin is burnt severely and eventually he loses his right arm and right leg. Brandon scrambles to get control of the situation and protect his men, but the chaos is too much. Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sees his best friend take a bullet in the jaw and another in the neck. He snaps and picks up a machine gun and starts taking down everyone he sees on the rooftops attacking him. Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) follows an attacker into a building, despite Brandon's warning. A few moments later we hear him calling for help and Brandon quickly storms in. Brandon saves Steve but not after killing a few innocent civilians (including a woman and some children) with two grenades, whose only crime was living with a man who attacked these soldiers. Later on in the film, we find out that an event even more traumatic occurred while Brandon walked Steve out of the blood-stained building.
Soon after when they return home, Brandon finds that he has more problems than dealing with the trauma of his friends. He reports to turn in his gear to the military and is stunned to find that he is assigned to report back to duty at the end of the month. When he complains to his higher-up, he ends up being escorted to military prison to wait until he is shipped back. Thinking on his feet, Brandon takes down the two men escorting him, finds Steve's jeep and drives off. He is officially AWOL. When he tells his family and Michelle what happens, they are also stunned and struggle thinking of what to do. Brandon remembers a Senator telling him that if he ever needs a favor, to ask him, and decides to head up to Washington D.C. to take the Senator up on his offer. Steve's fiancée Michelle (Abbie Cornish) offers to drive with him, knowing that Steve is likely to suffer from stop-loss as well. So off they go on a road trip to try and stop this cruelty to soldiers.
This film is getting hit with more insults about being just another 'anti-war' or 'anti-Iraq film'. Due to these claims, it's going to fail at the box office just like every other film labeled with that title has. The tragic thing about that is the fact that this film really has little to do with Iraq. Peirce never implies whether she is for or against the war and none of the characters do. She criticizes the government's use of the stop-loss technique, but whether you support the war or not it is quite clear that what they are doing to these men is so wrong that it should be criminal. This film is an incredibly devastating character study focused around men who are torn apart mentally because of the war, but in doing that Peirce doesn't come out and say that the war is wrong. She says that stop-loss is wrong and that men who suffer from the war shouldn't be sent back there within a month of returning home. An impressive film that struck me deeply and still has me holding back tears when I think of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Every man, woman, and child in America should see this film. It will,
in time, I believe, go down as one of the all-time great American urban
To be sure, there was no scarcity of fodder to feed anti-war political rhetoric throughout most of the 113 minutes of the film.
The two most memorable scenes, for me were: 1. When Sgt. Brandon King, sought to reverse his "Stop Loss Upon Orders of the President of the United States of America" by appealing to the fairness of his Commanding Officer, he was sternly reminded that the President's Order superseded his own. King's response of "F**k the President of the United States, respectfully, Sir!", brought loud cheers, whistles, and applause from many, not all, in the theater audience.
2. Sgt. Brandon King entered a building in which the enemy combatants had fled. He heard gunfire, then the cries from his advance man, two floors above, that he had been shot. Though wounded, he was warning King, apprising him of the location and number of enemy in the building. Sgt. King fought his way, taking out the enemy, room by room, until he reached his soldier's position. When he found his wounded comrade, he saw, standing before him, an Iraqi appearing to be frightened, holding a boy of 5 or 6 years in his arms. The "Haji" extended his arm from behind the boy, held him like a shield, then dropped a grenade in a suicidal attempt to kill himself, the boy, King and his wounded comrade. Thanks to quick reflexes, King was able to save himself and his soldier; the Iraqi man and boy perished in the blast.
This, for me, was the defining moment. I knew then, without reservation, that The War Against Terror is a war we must win. Forget about all the reasons why we are in this war or why we shouldn't be in it. It's too late for polemics; we're in it and there's no turning back the clock. It's kill or be killed.
As of this moment, what we had thought was a winding down of hostilities, a successful "Surge," was merely a regrouping strategy by the enemy. Fighting has resumed "Big Time," and in areas we had come to believe were calm. Complacency is, indeed, the vacation land of fools.
Americans, with the exception of family and friends of soldiers, have become disconnected from the war. They have become like the spiritually exhausted women of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock," those who only "come and go Talking of Michelangelo." We are fighting a many-headed Hydra with one intention and many names: "Army of the Mahdi," "Militia," "Insurgents," "Al Qaeda," "Shia," "Sunni," "Sufi," etc. One or another of them pretends to temporarily ally with us, but are, in truth, a "Judas" in our midst, a thumb opposing four fingers, but they are one hand.
We are in mortal combat with Evil; make no mistake about it. Islam is not a peaceful religion, its entire motivation is Jihad. It always has been a terrorist religion since before June 8, 632 A.D.
Islam and Terrorism are synonymous.
Islam has always been about murderous conquest. In 732 A.D. the Mediterranean Sea was, for all intents and purposes, a Muslim Lake.
If not for Charles "The Hammer" Martel winning the Battle of Tours in 732 A.D., which has traditionally been characterized as the decisive world historical event, since it preserved western Europe from Muslim conquest and Islamization, you might very well be reading this in Arabic at this moment.
The time has come to take the gloves off and purge the world of this monstrous Evil of Islamofascism forevermore, not in a war of attrition, but one of annihilation.
If we do not prosecute this war with every means available to us now, there will be no one to fight for us in the future. The two, three, four, and five tour volunteers are exhausted, bravely fighting on, though wounded in mind and body.
Soon, over 70,000 American soldiers will begin to suffer the Vietnam Era Agent Orange Syndrome as a result of exposure to Depleted Uranium. What will be your fate when this "Thin Red Line" of courage is no longer able to withstand the Forces of Evil? George Santayana's admonition,"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.", is more true today than ever.
Remember Rambo the first? The movie that detailed the way soldiers are
treated when returning from war? They are out of place, they bring all
this baggage with them that all civilians just want to put aside. In
the meantime, the military wants that soldier back in their killing
That's what this movie made me think of, although it was not Rambo-violent, just Rambo-ideological. Ryan Phillippe makes this movie even better, giving one of his best performances as yet. He is also changed physically, no longer just a pretty teenage boy, but a heavy muscled soldier man. If someone would have told me Ryan Phillippe would be good in the role of a Texan sergeant I would have laughed, but he made it fit like a glove.
I will let you see the film for yourself and make up your own mind. It is a great anti-war movie and a slap on the face of all those back-seat warmongers out there. I highly recommend it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have two sons that have both been to Iraq and they don't know anyone that has had a stop-loss or come back so messed up like everyone of the guys in this movie. I was literally angry at the end of this movie. I am so very proud of both my sons and proud of every military man and woman that goes over or even remains here that is in the service. I don't know if this is a spoiler but I checked it because it tells some of the thoughts and actions of some of the actors. The parents and friends of the servicemen didn't even try to talk with them, they dropped their lives and ran with them. War is terrible and many lives are lost, but that is no reason to turn your back and run to Canada or Mexico. I am proud to be an American and stand beside keeping terrorists out of my country...
Caught this at the Canadian premier... Phillippe was there answering
questions with the director and I was looking forward to something a
lot more powerful than what I saw. The issue that it brought to light
was definitely relevant, thought provoking, and powerful all on its
own. The film, however, offered nothing new in the way of
characters--meaning, we've seen this type of character in many other
films, and they were often handled much better--and the story didn't
really keep me entranced. Why? Because, the main issue, stop loss, was
handled in a very one sided manner. The Q&A suggested that the
director--and some in the audience--thought the issue really was played
out in an open ended way, but really, it was just a bunch of policy
bashing. Frankly, I agree with the films point of view, I just feel it
loses all of it's meaning in how it was presented. Perhaps the cliché
nature of so much of the confrontations hurt it for me as well. I
didn't care about the life the characters were to leave behind, etc,
Saying all of this, the performances were good for the parts. Some of the dialogue was exceptional (some... it had its moments) and the scenes that actually took place in the war were astounding.
On a last thought, the director made a point of explaining that a lot of the inspiration came from the fact that many soldiers these days video and photograph every aspect of their lives, and edit them together with music and share them with the world--cameras mounted on their cars, guns, etc---and so much of the war footage was displayed this way. Frankly, I was upset more of the film didn't take its inpiration from the same styling.
STOP-LOSS is a powerful film from the first frame to the last and
delivers a story of our men (and women) who are serving in a war which
many will not come home from. Why are we in this war? That is not the
question here, but of our soldiers from states such as Texas who enlist
and want to "make a difference" for their country and who now face a
deadly enemy out to destroy them, maim them and send them back to the
United States in coffins. STOP-LOSS gives us their stories, their
nightmares and their brave attempts to assimilate back into a culture
which many find alien, as well as, incoherent to what they faced in the
battles of Iraq.
What began IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH takes us to STOP-LOSS, and with a cast of young actors that is out of this world! Ryan Phillippe better be remembered at Oscar time, and Channing Tatum (wow, how you have STEPPED UP in this film!), to all the cast who brought home to the screen this film of what our troops have faced/face in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bravo, Kimberly Pierce for giving us this important film to show us what our troops today fear and contend with in war, and their return to the USA in what might be called COMING HOME meets THE DEER HUNTER, but shows you in STOP-LOSS, that "BOYS DON'T CRY", they just continue to serve in Iraq with bravery and valor.
When I first saw previews for "Stop-Loss," I thought, this could be a great movie. Unfortunately, I was way off in my assumption. If you thought "There Will Be Blood" was boring, imagine what it would have felt like if there weren't any good actors in it. Can you picture it in your mind? Good. If not, go see "Stop-Loss." Our hero, Ryan Phillipie (however you spell it)goes to war in Afghanistan (which we never see) and then to Iraq. He comes home, is stop-lossed, and decides to stand up to the system and NOT go back to fight the ridiculous war George Bush got us into. Trouble is, you don't like him. You don't like his dumbass Texan buddies. You don't even like the blonde chick he rides around with. I won't spoil the ending, but trust me...it's worse than you'd imagine. Overall, it's a bland statement about a war nobody likes thinking about anymore. I was glad to see it end as I'll soon be glad to see the actual war end.
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