By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Star – Channing Tatum
Genre – Drama (18)
1 hr 52 minutes (U.S.A)
Awards – 2 Wins & 5 Nominations
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A stop-loss order specifies that an investor wants to execute a trade for a given stock share, but only if a specified price is reached during trading. It’s also the United States military method of increasing a serviceman’s active duty against his will when his contract as finished, effectively reenlisting them against their will. It was deployed approximately 72,000 times in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With no draft they have no choice. When wars rage you have this contradiction where soldiers don’t fancy soldiering so much and enlisting falls. Many soldiers are from multi-generational soldiering families and when you lose the trust of this backbone of the armed forces you start to lose the war, at home and away, as did the US in both Iraq and Afghanistan. If these blue collar kids don’t want to serve then you have a problem and middle class college kids get called up. Stop-Loss, I guess, is designed to stop the warmongering senator’s sons and daughters being called up.
The film is from Kimberly Peirce of Boys Don’t Cry fame and inspired by her brother who served in the military just after 9/11 and all of his experiences he went through. Many soldiers were posting up videos on YouTube of their war and Pierce felt this would be a good angle to look at Iraq. Kimberley is gay and remarkable just how many female directors, of what there are out there, are gay. Maybe the career is not suited to women who have kids and get pregnant because of the long days but a macho career that, perhaps, requires more of the aggressive Y chromosome. It wasn’t an easy film to make with screenwriter Mark Richard estimated that there were no less than 65 drafts of the script. Pierce wanted to honour the soldier’s service and bravery in the film but also point out how they are exploited but without making them look like stupid macho cannon fodder, which they mostly are.
Ryan Phillippe … Brandon King
Joseph Gordon-Levitt … Tommy Burgess
Rob Brown … Isaac ‘Eyeball’ Butler
Channing Tatum … Steve Shriver
Victor Rasuk … Rico Rodriguez
Quay Terry … Al ‘Preacher’ Colson
Matthew Scott Wilcox … Harvey
Abbie Cornish … Michelle
Connett Brewer … Curtis (as Connett M. Brewer)
Timothy Olyphant … Lt. Col. Boot Miller
Josef Sommer … Senator Orton Worrell
Linda Emond … Ida King
Ciarán Hinds … Roy King
Mamie Gummer … Jeanie
Abbie Cornish … Michelle
Alex Frost … Shorty
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) leads a squad stationed in Tikrit during the Iraq War. The film starts energetically with video footage from the tour of the squad with just 28 days before returning to the United States. While on nervy duty at a checkpoint in the town, they are ambushed by insurgents and drawn into the backstreets and take heavy fire, including RPG, resulting in death and serious injury, private first class Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) near the vehicle when the RPG is discharged and another soldier, Pvt. Rico Rodriguez, dives on Burgess and saves him but Rico cops a snipers bullet before they get back clear. Staff Sergeant King (Ryan Phillippe) heroically enters the house where the bad guys are to help out friend and squad member Sgt. Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) already ahead of him, who has taken out the insurgents but an innocent family to after being injured.
After their trauma they are back in their Texas hometown of Brazos. Brandon and Steve are decorated with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in a solemn ceremony. A Senator takes Brandon aside after the ceremony and offers to help Brandon in any way he can. But that night, Tommy shows the damaging effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. He gets drunk and digs a foxhole in his front yard, and strikes his beautiful fiancée Michelle (Abbie Cornish). When Brandon comes over to check on Steve, he is unable to get through to him and his wife kicks him out.
The next day the boys gather at a ranch to let off some steam by drinking and watching Tommy shoot his wedding gifts, after their friend Shorty (Alex Frost) reads the gift cards. In the morning after Brandon, Tommy and Steve report to their military base. When Brandon arrives expecting to be discharged, he is unexpectedly ordered back to active duty in Iraq, a stop-loss policy. He refuses to comply and goes AWOL, becoming a deserter, Michelle agreeing to help him flee and get his head right. If he is caught he will go to the stockade and eventually sent back to war. He thinks the senator in DC will help him out, not a good idea.
Not bad but nothing special. The cast is young, sexy and chest ‘bumpingly’ macho as the plot and writing and it doesn’t really get past that bromance vibe. The stop loss revelation was interesting enough but the arguments about it not that interesting around it. We need more on that and a stronger political edge here for the film to really kick. How many guys that were stop-lossed died in action because of PTSD etc.? You got the feeling the director cast abs over actors here to make sure the film got made and so that point almost lost. You are essentially making a film about deserters to a blue collar rust belt audience to watch. As the director is gay this could have worked better around female soldiers and being stop-lossed.
The action scenes are only in the first bit so don’t watch it for war stuff and then it’s very much a melodrama about post war angst and depression between men and women. Nice to see Australian Abbie Cornish back on screen and a Julia Styles type actress of great talent. I think the director picked her because she has that sexy tomboy appeal to both men and women. I always find films interesting directed by gay women as they do see the world differently and more honestly. Obviously Channing Tatum is in it and so the girls will want to watch it with their man on date night, the perfect American lug in cinema today.
I enjoyed it enough but it’s not as good as the ratings. I don’t mind macho movies but his is full of those alpha male clichés and that gets in the way of the point of the films message. This was released in 2008 at the height of the Iraq War disappointment so maybe had more impact back then and Tatum with his short off the distraction the Americans girls needed as their sons and lovers were cut down for oil in foreign fields.
IMDb.com – 6.5/10.0 (18.234votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 65% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 61% critic’s approval
-Stop-Loss: Behind the Scenes-
Standard cast & crew chat about making the film
-Staying in Boot camp-
Excuse to get Channing Tatum’s shirt off?
Quite a few
BBC.COM – ‘Stop-Loss takes some time out from the argument over the validity of the war to ask a question closer to home – whether the emotional battlefield America subjects its young soldiers to is actually worth it’
Time Out – ‘It’s the film equivalent of a weary shrug – capturing the national mood at a moment’.
Empire Magazine – ‘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’.
New Yorker – ‘Stop-Loss is not a great movie, but it’s forceful, effective, and alive, with the raw, mixed-up emotions produced by an endless war — a time when the patriotism of military families is in danger of being exploited beyond endurance.
Cine Passion – ‘Feverish yet bizarrely apolitical, the movie tries to have it both ways and fumbles its outraged and reconciliatory impulses equally’.
The Mail – ‘Following the harrowing and superbly made opening sequences of hand to hand combat in Iraq, we can feel the frustrations and the anger through the film, and we sympathise. But the film has a confused message …’