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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
TBC
Cast
Ryan Phillippe
Channing Tatum
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Abbie Cornish
Timothy Olyphant
Ciaran Hinds.
Directors
Kimberly Peirce.
Screenwriters
Kimberly Peirce
Mark Richard.
Running Time
112 minutes

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Stop-Loss
Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.


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Plot
Lifelong buddies Staff Sgt. King (Phillippe) and Sgt. Shriver (Tatum) return from Iraq. But when King is told he’s been “stop lossed” and redeployed against his will, he goes AWOL.


Review
Stop-Loss

The funny thing about the current wave of ‘Iraq War movies’ is that they’re rarely set in Iraq, and they’re almost never about the war - at least ostensibly. Only Redacted and Battle For Haditha have even arguably portrayed combat in Iraq, and they’ve shown such extreme cases that it barely counts. Stop Loss largely carries on that trend: this is an almost-entirely Stateside drama, and the soldiers depicted have deeper conflicts within themselves than they do with the enemy.

Ryan Phillippe takes the lead role of Brandon, a young soldier who has done his duty and is looking forward to resuming his life in Texas. When he is compulsorily re-enlisted under the Army’s “stop loss” procedure, he flips out and determines to fight the draft. He leaves behind his best friend Steve (Channing Tatum), who’s having trouble readjusting to civilian life, and his vulnerable brother-in-arms Tommy (Joseph Gordon Levitt). The only one who accompanies Brandon, in fact, is Steve’s girlfriend Michelle (Abbie Cornish), who’s increasingly worried by Steve’s behaviour.

What follows is a mixture of road movie, wartime flashback and Deer Hunter-lite drama among the guys back home. Brandon, who’s also having trouble dealing with his wartime experience even if he’s holding it together, almost literally snaps when told that he’ll have to go back to Iraq. A patriotic soldier and polite son, he’s suddenly shouting at his commanding officer - and shouting “Fuck the President” at that. Whatever we’re later told about the stop-loss procedure - which has reclaimed over 80,000 US soldiers for further tours in Iraq during the last several years - it’s clear that Brandon’s objection is not some matter of principle, but simply the age-old, knee-jerk sense that this is not fair.

Phillippe’s at his best in the lead role, giving depth and humanity to a character who could have been a mere cipher, the model soldier who does his duty and stands by his friends until he finds he can do no more. He gets excellent support from Channing Tatum, who never strays into stereotype in a role that’s more complex than it looks. The only weak link in the cast is Cornish, who increasingly seems like a rather blank slate - the role of Michelle requires more than a frown and an expression of puzzlement.

But despite the strong turns and solid direction from Boys Don’t Cry’s Kimberly Peirce, the story is weak. While the characters come across clearly, the character arcs - especially that of Gordon-Levitt’s Tommy - feel familiar, the beats (visiting the family of a dead comrade, contacting the wounded friend) clichéd and the ending never really in doubt - although moving when it comes. And the prettiness of the cast is a distraction. While the sheer good looks on offer mean that this has a better chance of reaching the younger generation, it also loads dice that really don’t need it. The policy of stop loss is self-evidently legally dubious and morally unsound; we don’t need to see America put soldiers this brave and beautiful in harm’s way to know it.


Verdict
Strong performances from the young cast make a compelling case that the US govt is failing its soldiers, but the film’s a little too much of a blunt instrument.


Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Stop-Loss
Empire Star Rating

Very moving

I'll give i t 3 1/2 stars because as good as it was, it wasn't quite a four star movie. But i could see myself watching it many times if it's on tv. I felt that the acting was great but it is true that Cornish needed to add more to her character than a bad accent and lots of frowning. Ryan P and Channing Tatum held the plot together and i was genuinely saddened at the ending. i didn't think the ending was going to be that so i was really upset by it. i already hate what the war does to soldie... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MariannaBelle at 19:51, 12 June 2009 | Report This Post


Very moving

I'll give i t 3 1/2 stars because as good as it was, it wasn't quite a four star movie. But i could see myself watching it many times if it's on tv. I felt that the acting was great but it is true that Cornish needed to add more to her character than a bad accent and lots of frowning. Ryan P and Channing Tatum held the plot together and i was genuinely saddened at the ending. i didn't think the ending was going to be that so i was really upset by it. i already hate what the war does to soldie... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MariannaBelle at 19:51, 12 June 2009 | Report This Post


Better than that

Finally, a drama with actual pace and a strong plot which maintains emotional depth. Too many indie dramas are so occupied with mopey characters that they forghet to have a plot oand just drag on. The acting is not uniformally great, but good where it counts, and it's not at all difficult to root hard for the main character. My only big qualm is with joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, who is wasted. He's supposed to be the guy who loves the military and can't stand anything else, but most of the ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tyler_Durden at 17:17, 20 November 2008 | Report This Post


Alright At First, Then Turned Crap.

I rented this out for my mum as she likes Ciaran Hinds and I like Timothy Olyphant but they were hardly in this dull movie. At first, it's was gripping and looked good. But then, it turned really chatty and you lost the faith of the people because they looked really bored in this. Ryan Phillippe is a very weak actor and he can't control the lead of this, his girlfriend is the worst with a annoying Texan accent and a frown. Channing Tatum is the best one out of the lot, he can show a lot of emoti... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 14:42, 01 September 2008 | Report This Post


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