Review: Stop-Loss (2008) R 112min
August 29th, 2008 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 4,277 Views
This Paramount Pictures’ Iraq war-themed drama shot in Texas and Morocco was directed by Kimberly Peirce (writer and director behind Boys Don’t Cry) and written by her and Mark Richard. Starring Ryan Phillipe, Timothy Olyphant (Catch And Release, Live Free or Die Hard, Hitman, Turok) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Beethoven, Roseanne, The Lookout, 10 Things I Hate About You).
The plot: Sergant Brandan King (Ryan Philippe) and his surviving soldiers come back from complete tour of duty in Iraq to Texas. He is trying to resume a normal life, but a few days later they are being recalled back into Iraq by president’s executive order to Stop-Loss, which means the government can break the original contract and send him back for another tour of duty. SSgt. King believes what the Army and the President are doing is wrong and decides to fight the order, going AWOL with his best friend’s girlfriend Michelle (Abbie Cornish).
The good: The story shows how relationships, friendship and family are tested by distance, war and destiny. It’s not an anti-war movie, but it does question the Stop-Loss policy. There’s been quite a few in the recent years like Lions and Lambs and Redacted, In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, even TV series like Over There. The cast and director knew what they were doing, and highly motivated and inspired by videos sent by the actual soldiers with war footage and sometimes gore set to rock music. So the movie begins with some nicely shot and well-choreographed war scene ala Gunner Palace (in a now-standard shaky camera style) where soldiers are being lured into an ambush. This scene sets up the characters in the movie. Sergent King in it was trying to protect civilians during the firefight, but everything goes wrong in the ambush and when he “cleared” two rooms in a house a whole family got killed. Several of his own soldiers were killed appart. So then these solders come back from Iraq, they are met with a parade that they don’t really need, but because the community and the army needs this parade: the community because this is Texas, these are patriotic, pro-military, pro-Iraq war families (”…fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here in our shopping malls”); for the army because they are trying to recruit more soldiers. There’s a senator who promises help, but then later in the movie he betrays King.
The rest of the movie is about these veterans who come home, try to resume normal life, but they have all sorts of problems adjusting – from PTSD to depression and alcoholism. Some want to go back to feel “normal” again or to revenge their fallen friends. Some are in rehab waiting for their prostetic limbs to be made. Some are beating up civilians in the bars. Some have nightmares.
Gordon-Levitt and particularly Channing Tatum (Step Up, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) are pretty good. Gordon-Lewitt is no longer a child-star and is very efficient with his body language and not saying much. The movie touches upon their motivation to be in the Army, like desire to make someone pay for 911, or some guys feeling like the army is their family, and it also has a great scene where King visits family of his fallen comrade and explains what happened in the battle and it turns out that the guys go there to fight for some sort of idea but end up fighting to protect each other.
Very well shot; particularly light is well managed. Kudos to Chris Menges on another great piece of work: he performs magic with natural light. He also did his job masterfully on such movies as Notes on a Scandal, North Country, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Dirty Pretty Things.
The bad: Stereotypical musical score. Very long. In the commentary director says a lot has been cut, but apparently it has not been enough. Ryan Philippe is ok, but he never goes beyond what director has told him to do or what is required to follow the script and his lines. Iraq film clichés. The last scene is very bad – it tries to avoid being over the top melodramatic and ends up being poor, unfinished and shallow.
[Lt. Col. Boot Miller] Don’t drink and drive. Don’t f**k anyone under 18. Don’t beat up civilians. Don’t beat your girlfriend. Don’t beat up your dog. Do you copy?
[SSgt King] With all due respect, Sir… F^%$ the President!… This, Sir, is bullshit and you know it. The President is not over there…
[Pvt. Rico Rodriguez] I hope you told them, “No f^%$ing way”. I mean, I might go back – if I get killed my family will get Green Cards.
DVD Special Features:
- Commentary with Director Kimberly Peirce and Co-Writer Mark Richard
- The Making of Stop-Loss
- A Day In Boot Camp
- Deleted Scenes
The summary: Original movie about stop-lossed soldiers in an unnecessery war. This movie is a tribute to these soldiers, but it also shows the friendship and camaraderie as well as stress on the families and communities created by the war. The movie takes us into hearts and minds of soldiers who enlisted after 9/11.
The cast: SSgt. Brandon King – Ryan Philippe | Tommy Burgess – Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Isaac ‘Eyeball’ Butler – Rob Brown | Sgt. Steve Shriver – Channing Tatum | Pvt. Rico Rodriguez – Victor Rasuk | Lt. Col. Boot Miller – Timothy Olyphant | Senator Orton Worrell – Josef Sommer | Michelle – Abbie Cornish
The crew: Director – Kimberly Peirce | Writer – Mark Richard & Kimberly Peirce | Producers – Pamela Abdy, Reid Carolin, Michael Diliberti, Alli Shearmur, Scott Rudin, Mark Roybal, Kimberly Peirce, Gregory Goodman | Music – John Powell | Cinematography – Chris Menges | Paramount Pictures | MTV Films
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ambush | Baptism | Brotherhood | car chase | cemetery | Channing Tatum | Chris Menges | Death of Child | DUI | Fake Id | Fiancee | fugitive | funeral | graphic violence | Honor | hostage | Iraq war | Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Kimberly Peirce | Loss of Brother | loss of friend | loss of son | Military Police | nightmare | PTSD | Ranch | Ryan Philippe | shootout | shot in the face | shot in the head | suicide | Texas | Timothy Olyphant | title spoken by character | U.S. Army | Urban Warfare | Veteran | War Veteran