2008 - United States - 112 minutes
Director - Kimberly Peirce
Writer - Mark Richard and Kimberly Peirce
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 6.5/10 - Link to IMDb
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

I was a young adult during the Viet Nam era and by only a stroke of fate was not submitted to that carnage. Of course, during the 1960’s, there was a draft and every young man was subject to being sent off to die at the whim of government officials.

The trauma to the protagonist in Stop-Loss can be likened to that of a young man drafted into battle in Viet Nam. The difference is this contemporary tale relays that the young man in question, Brandon, had volunteered to serve in the military and completed a tour of duty in war-torn Iraq with honors and along with his buddies with whom he enlisted arrives in his Texas hometown to a hero’s welcome. He has had enough of war and is elated to be able to return to his civilian life and put the horrors of war behind him.

Brandon then finds that he has been stop-lossed - the fate of some eighty-one thousand soldiers thus far during the past five years - and is ordered to return to battle in Iraq. He flies into a rage and verbally assaults his commanding officer. As a result, he is ordered to the stockade until time to be redeployed. On his way to the stockade, he overpowers his guards, escapes, and goes AWOL.

Thus begins a quest to favorably resolve his situation by seeking out the senator who has told the conquering hero that he is available for help and counsel. Through a twist of fate, he is aided in his flight by the fiancé of his best friend with whom he had served in Iraq.

The young men depicted in Stop-Loss are surely not what one would call refined. They hail from the lower class of a small, Texas town and - had they not enlisted - would probably have had some sort of dead-end job. The armed forces offered them a profession and guidance. Unfortunately, it also offered death, horror, disfigurement, and post traumatic stress. These men are lost in their former world and exhibit negative reactions to it such as drunkenness, fighting, acts of civil violence, and combative attitudes toward the women in their lives. These men have allowed their narrow-minded attitude of macho to practically destroy their lives. Add that macho attitude to the indescribable visions of war in their minds, and you have an explosive situation.

The actors in this film perform an impressive job at giving the viewer a believable look at these young men and women.

Ryan Phillippe as Brandon is a perfect as the former macho jerk who has established himself as a leader who is maturing into a thinking, reasoning man.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt masters another edgy role as a man so dependent upon army life that he is unable to function as a civilian.

Channing Tatum is affecting in the role of Brandon’s lifetime best friend who not only is suffering post traumatic stress but is unable to come to terms with the actions of his buddy.

Victor Rasuk gives a heartbreaking performance as the lover boy of the group who is horribly disfigured and wounded in battle. His performance is a tribute to all of the real soldiers who return from war and defeat seemingly insurmountable odds.

Abbie Cornish portrays Jeanie, an admirable woman who is the fiancé of Brandon’s best friend and his support during his flight. Cornish gives us a sexy woman who is tough and not about to be done in by fate and the idiotic actions of the men in her life.

Needless-to-say, this film is a denunciation of the war and the stop-loss policy (link to Wikipedia article), but it is also a tribute to the young soldiers who go off to Iraq thinking that they are doing something good for their country. It’s a very good film with a big heart and worthy viewing for any citizen.

Neil Turner
August 25, 2008