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A Noble Effort
Lechuguilla4 August 2008
Well intentioned, this film tells the fictional story of Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe), an American soldier who, after successfully completing a heroic but horrendous tour of duty in Iraq, is notified that, despite his wishes, he must return to Iraq for yet more combat duty, a real-life contingency called "stop-loss". It's a fate that neither King, nor real-life soldiers, want or deserve, but which the U.S. government justifies in lieu of a wartime draft.

The film's first few minutes provide a montage of images and scenes showing King, and his men, in Iraq, as they bond together as protective buddies, and as they endure a violent urban ambush, during which several buddies get killed or seriously wounded.

Back home in Texas, King and a couple of his men briefly celebrate their hero status. But life for them quickly deteriorates, as their wartime trauma leaves both physical and mental scars. And then, King gets his "stop-loss" notice. This sets up the rest of the film's plot.

The theme here is obvious. The brave soldier, having endured more than enough danger and trauma, is still just a powerless individual. As such, he or she is caught between having to resubmit to the horrors of war, or submit to a perilous and life-altering AWOL status in the U.S., or elsewhere, forever on the run from an overpowering American political system. It's a timely and worthy subject for a film.

That much effort and care went into the creation of the film, from background research to attention to detail in costumes, production design, and military protocol is obvious.

And the film's color cinematography also is quite good. There are lots of close-ups, to get a feel for what the characters are going through. Many scenes feature natural lighting, used in clever ways. At times, the film has an almost documentary look and feel. Acting is overall credible. I especially liked the performances of Linda Emond, as King's mom, and Abbie Cornish, as a young woman who tries to help King.

The major problem is the script. Characters are rather stereotyped and two-dimensional. The plot is fairly predictable. And the story and its attendant theme are a tad too direct. I could have wished for a little more depth, and a plot twist or two. The film's ending is not very satisfying.

Yet, "Stop-Loss" is a noble effort to document the brutality not only of war but also of an American government that uses, then basically throws away, people, to ensure the preservation of an American war industry and continued power of faceless bureaucrats and corrupt politicians.
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Not a balanced portrayal.
countvonbarron17 August 2008
I'm a sergeant in the army and have served 2 tours in Iraq and am preparing to go a third time in December. This film was irresponsible and not balanced in it's portrayal. First off every single soldier has an 8 year commitment. However long your initial enlistment is (3,4 years etc) you then serve the remainder of your time as part of the IRR (indivdual ready reserve). Moreover every single soldier knows about stop loss. It wouldn't have been portrayed the way it was in the movie. He would have known about it ahead of time. They don't tell you the day you get out and make it a surprise. Especially as an E6 a staff sergeant. The combat scene was not realistic. Soldiers guarding a checkpoint WOULD NEVER leave it to chase a vehicle. That is general order no 1 every soldier is taught that from day 1 of basic training. Furthermore the portrayal of PTSD was not wholly accurate. The army has programs in place to treat it. The character played by Joseph Gordon Levitt would not have gotten a bad conduct discharge for breaking a window. He would have received punishment under the uniform code of military justice. For a bad conduct discharge there would have to be a pattern of behavior over a period of time and then every effort would be made to rehabilitate that soldier. The discharge would only come after that had occurred. Finally the scenes of the authorities chasing Ryan Phillipe is BS. The army does not pursue you if you go AWOl. For short awols the soldiers usually receive punishment under UCMJ. For long awols over 30 days the army drops them from the rolls and stops their pay and benefits. If you attempt to get a federal job your name is entered into a database as a deserter. Lastly the final scene is total nonsense. Assuming he was awol less than 30 days he would have been demoted at least 1 grade. He would not have kept his current rank. The soldier was portrayed as a coward. Bottom line. I know personally soldiers in my unit 1 in my squad who have been stop lossed and although they may complain EVERY one of them will do their duty honorably. This movie claims to be pro soldier but it does not portray our soldiers in an honest way and that is dishonoring the memory of all of our soldiers both alive and dead who have served and are still serving over there. Also in response to adx2-1's comment he is right about the policy. 90 days before deployment and 90 days after the unit returns to home station. And under the current dwell time policy it would have been at least a year before he returned. Although it is never stated how long it is suggested that it is less than a year.
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Stops short of being great; but still worth seeing
paul2001sw-112 June 2011
'Stop-Loss' deals with the problems soldiers have in getting out of the army; both through the technical procedure of "Stop-Loss", whereby a solider is sent back for a second consecutive tour of duty, but also through the difficulties of adjusting to civilian life after time on the front line. Many dramas set after the Vietnam war explored the idea that the sense of a victory well won (absent then, as now) might be critical to enabling a soldier to make the transition from combat animal back to member of civic society. The film is well made, powerfully acted, and doesn't pretend that it's characters are angels (although it justly acknowledges their bravery). But it doesn't really go very far beyond its premise, and the ending is given a slightly more upbeat (but inconclusive) spin than could have been applied. The final credits remind us of the startling high number of American troops to have fought in Afghanistan or Iraq in the 21st century; wars that are fought (for good or bad) while the rest of us get on with our lives in an altogether easier place.
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Okay, but...
adx2-113 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
When I saw the preview, I thought it would be an accurate portrayal on how stop-loss affects soldiers. Unfortunately, it was a little off the wall in how it showed Brandon getting stop-lossed. In reality, stop-loss takes place 90 days prior to deployment and stays in effect until 90 days after the soldier returns. Each unit is given one year of "dwell time" in the US, which means they won't deploy during that period. The film's portrayal of Brandon getting stop-lossed only a week after he returned from Iraq to go to Iraq again for another tour a few weeks later was as realistic as shooting 100 rounds from an M4 without changing the magazine once. Also, with his actions after he was stop-lossed (saying f*** the President, going AWOL, etc...) he wouldn't have just went back to Iraq still a Staff Sergeant like he did at the end of the movie. He probably would have gotten a court-martial instead.

Other than those things, it isn't a bad movie. Just inaccurate. I served three tours in Iraq already and I was stop-lossed for my second one. I knew I was stop-lossed over three months before I left, they didn't wait until two weeks before it was time to go to tell me I was stop-lossed. I made the decision to reenlist later on instead of getting out at the end of my second tour.
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I'm getting out!
phantomtristan30 March 2008
Director Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry") brings another powerfully charged film of such raw emotion that upon later reflection of the movie I felt like I had witnessed real events.

Stop-Loss follows the fictional story of a soldier, Brandon King (Ryan Philippe), who has returned home after a tour in Iraq. His contract is up and he just about to get out when he is stop-lossed (a "fine-print" section in all soldiers' contracts that gives the President the power to extended soldier's contracts in time of war). He refuses to be shipped back to Iraq, and goes AWOL in search of his state's senator for help. What follows is his road trip to fight the stop-loss as well as showing the devastating affects his fellow soldiers (Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) experience from the horrible war. Its' acting, directing, and writing had such a feeling of authenticity, and combined with the fact that 81,000 of our brave soldiers have already been stop-lossed since Spetember 11,2001, this film feels like a true story.

One thing that made this film succeed so well was it's director was a woman, and she was able to make a movie were you could feel and see the emotions these guys were feeling even as they would desperately try and mask them.

The acting was extraordinary from the three main soldiers, most notably Ryan Philippe who is so gritty and real in his performance that he seems like he actually is a marine. Channing Tatum gives a genuine performance, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt's is the most haunting of the trio as a soldier who fights his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with excessive amounts of booze and slowly slips into a deep hole of despair.

This films is not a propaganda piece, it simply portrays something that is going on right now. It brings up many good points, but never bashes you with a certain viewpoint but leaves it to you to decide. This is such emotionally powerful, deeply moving film, the best film I have seen since the year started, and destined to be one of my favorites from this year.
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'Coming Home' for a new generation
the_Poppuns4 April 2008
It's horrible that we need a new one, you'd think people would learn their lesson the first, or hundredth, time they were taught it. But anyway, the movie is pretty good. At the very beginning it reminded me of 'Redacted' and then later 'In the Valley of Elah' and you could say with most movies that that would be a detriment but they're all telling stories about the same subject. So it's not like anyone is copying anyone else.

This movie is more movie-ish than those I mentioned. It works as entertainment(that sounds wrong) as well as being informative. It's showing you a certain situation people are going through but it's also a "movie", with action scenes, good acting, relationship issues, etc. As I said the acting is good. Ryan Phillipe is I want to say underrated, but maybe he's not rated at all. He's an extremely good looking person who could have just been in romantic comedies and made some nice money that way, but instead he's carved out an interesting resume for himself. He does some of his best work here. Joseph Gordon Levitt, everyone's favorite young indie actor, shows up here as well, although he has a smaller role than he normally does. He and the rest of the cast were also really good. Ciaran Hinds makes an interesting cowboy, btw. I wouldn't have guessed that. The only problem I may have had with the film is that I didn't like the ending. But that doesn't take away from the fact that I think this is a well-made movie.

The film is serious. It'll probably be depressing for most people. But hey life is depressing right now. Especially for people involved in this situation and maybe those folks should consider whether they should really watch it or not. Because I would think they'd want to escape that reality. The people who aren't paying attention to what's going on should see it. I'd have less problem recommending this to them. I think it's the least likely of the Iraq based movies to offend anyone. It's got a few violent war scenes but nothing over-the-top or terribly graphic. It's just basically wave at you saying "hel-lo, this is the stuff you're trying to ignore but should really be paying attention to.' There is a normal amount of cursing and no naked people that I can remember.

If you haven't been watching the Iraq war centered movies, it's time you saw one and this would probably be the easiest to take.
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kairingler17 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
i thought that this was a very compelling movie.. lot's of good character development, ryan phillipe was great in this, he really knocked it out of the park with this one, he plays a staff seargeant who comes home a "hero" from Iraq, there is a parade , the whole town comes out , the senator is there and tells him anything you need son, come look me up. so him and his buddies spend a few days at home over the weekend catching up with their wives girlfriends,, and what not, things get rowdy and lot's of drinking happens, usual stuff. so on Monday morning our hero goes back to the office to get his official discharge papers,, well to his chagrin, he is sent back to iraq for another tour of duty, this little known "trick" in the military is in the fine print,, basically it says , the president can extened you're military term in time of war.. well in this particular case the war was already declared over years ago,, there you can see our hero's dilemma should he suck it up and go back or fight the system. he decides to fight the system going AWOL.. that's absent without leave.. first he tries canada then d.c. then Mexico.. and were not to the end yet. very compelling movie, it's grips you to the core, and makes you wanna get up and do something about getting our boys back in one piece from Iraq which we have no business being there in the first place.
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A "Deer Hunter" for the Iraq War
E Canuck27 March 2008
Just saw this film in an advance screening and once the tension and threat (very real) of the opening battle scenes were borne and past, the film grew on me, as the story became one of the soldiers at home: their war aftermath and their war that just won't quit or let them go.

It occurred to me at one point this was quite like watching a "Deer Hunter" for the Iraq war. There were certainly similar aspects, including aspects of the soldiers' relationships with each other and with others at home, and in terms of the casualties and injuries that continue to pile up well after leaving the battlefield.

Stop Loss is perhaps a more political film than the "Deer Hunter" was, because of the timing of its release, while the issues of the war in the film are still very much on the boil in the USA. I think it intends to position itself in a relevant and timely place, and time will tell whether it has staying power as a lasting and powerful war or antiwar film.

There is enough humanity, good drama and strong acting in this picture that it may deserve a place in the lineup of memorable or important American war films.
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Stop-Loss Is Not Anti-War, It's Pro-Soldier
Erico_7737513 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
What is bravery? Is it trying to do the right thing while facing death in the process? What is patriotism? Is it selflessly giving to your country your services and possibly your life to protect and idea? What is honor? Is it following through on your responsibilities to others who depend on you? In today's United States Army, these questions aren't merely hypothetical, but the basis of character. Kimberly Pierce understood this when she made her sophomore film Stop-Loss, which is extremely likely to be my favorite film of 2008.

Stop-Loss tells the story of a group of soldiers from Texas who are coming home from Iraq. Just before they see stateside, they encounter an ambush that kills three of their respected brothers. The squad leader Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) feels responsible for the deaths. He intends to leave the service for good when he gets back along with his best friend (Channing Tatum). This is good news to Brandon's family; his father (the great Cirian Hinds) was a vet from Vietnam. This is also good news for his friend's fiancé (Abbie Cornish), whose love only shadows her loneliness.

But when Brandon turns in his gear and paperwork, he is told that he's to ship back out to Iraq on a stop-loss, which he instantly contests with his superior (Timothy Olyphant). The result has Brandon on the run as he goes AWOL to find a way out of going. He is aided by his friend's fiancé; he decides his best chance is to convince a local senator in Washington to help him. Along the way, he gets a tour of conscience. He meets the family of one of his dead men, whose brother knows about people who could get soldiers through to Canada. He also goes to see another of his comrades (Victor Russak), who was severely wounded in the conflict. And at the end, Brandon must make one of the hardest decisions that anyone will ever have to face.

Love it or hate it, this film has be one of the most unusual films dealing with war. It neither sides for the conflict in Iraq or against it, finding the argument to be beside the point. No doubt that Brandon does say something unflattering about his Commander-in-Chief in one scene, but the film makes it's bravest decision in being pro-soldier from beginning to end. We like these guys, we honor their dedication to our country and we only want them to find happiness and safety back home. But we can tell nearly from the start that coming home isn't going to be easy when tensions flare up in unpredictable ways. One of the men (played flawlessly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) seems to need violence in order to feel normal. The film doesn't hate him for it, nor do we since we know that, in the words of another great movie, he had "a bad war".

There is something to be said about the decisions made in this film. In lesser movies, Brandon's decision would be more clear-cut depending on the filmmaker's political views. There would be some who call Brandon's plight cowardice and the film addresses this by allowing Brandon to have more than a couple of emotions. He's not afraid to fight or to die, but has a more interesting reason to resist. And the film doesn't see any easy answer in the options left to him. We see the life of another AWOL soldier up-close. There's nothing pretty about that.

A lot of the success of the film has to go to the amazing casting of the film. I have never been much of a fan for Ryan Phillippe), but he might have just converted me. This is an amazing performance of such complexity and earnestness that I was left truly amazed. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been a rising independent superstar, completely washing away his child actor days in films that are challenging, playing parts that require his brand of smooth ferocity. This character is important even though he does little for the plot by being a tragic figure. I believe he might see his first nomination for this role. But my favorite performance may also be the most worthy of the Oscar this year: Abbie Cornish. Cornish isn't just throwing diamonds as a young woman in love with an impossible man.

Stop-Loss might just be the best military film since Platoon that deals with soldiers as individuals and not part of a strategy board. Kimberly Pierce, whose first and only other film was Boys Don't Cry, sees soldiers in a way that other filmmakers haven't (and those filmmakers are almost exclusively male, a few veterans themselves). She declares that she had documented hundreds of interviews with soldiers. This is one of the extremely rare cases that fiction proves to be the better format over documentary. In making this a fictional tale, she can tell a broader story and accompany the emotional journey of all her characters. She did this with her first film, which told the sad story of Brandon Teena. I didn't think that she could have made a better film than that. She has proved that she could and has.

All in all, I love this film and cannot recommend this to enough people. It's going to be attacked unfairly by the pro-war crowd who either feel that the film encourages wrong behaviors or weakening morale. In fact, I think that the film shows the real indomitable spirit of the fighting men with honor. But I also find that those who attack movies like these usually think that the best way to support the troops is to keep them in harms way. Stop-Loss isn't a cry to "cut and run". It's a testament that soldiers will remain honorable no matter how they come home. Something that John McCain might keep in mind
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A Great Film! Too bad that this story is the reality for a lot of people.
alexbq216 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I had an opportunity to attend an advanced screening of this film yesterday in Boulder CO. I am not in any way affiliated with film industry or the critique. I was just a lucky walk in.

I've seen a preview of this movie a few days before and was not impressed by the trailer. It looked like another belated anti-war movie (better late then never), with youthful actors looking ruggedly pretty for the camera.

What I saw was a fist full of reality mixed with a great story of, I guess, a youth becoming a man – not in a sexual way.

The plot is obvious from the trailer, so there is nothing I can give away. The ending was not surprising, at least to me. And the ending was both obvious and powerful.

The beginning is very life like. If you've seen Gunner Palace, or been to this war, you'll recognize it. It starts in a format of home movies made by soldiers who serve in Iraq. It was apparently based on the films and photographs shot by actual soldiers. Some of this footage was included into these opening sequences, much was recreated by the actors. So it is ultra realistic. The only way to tell them apart is to look for Ryan Philippe, who is good in his role but stands out due to being easily recognizable.

The film quickly moves into a war sequence, demonstrating the horrors of war. Do not expect to see the charge of the light brigade. It is not a massive battle, but you will see the bullets flying, and more importantly killing. If you were put off by the violence in Saving Private Ryan, you may want to close your eyes for a few minutes at this point. Past the gun battle we are back in the States. So the Iraq part is only about 20 minutes.

The real story kicks in when Ryan Philippe with his war buddies returns home a decorated war hero looking forward to put the past behind him only to find out that his contract was extended by the Stop Loss policy and he is to go back to Iraq. The film does not become boring or preachy. And through the main character's journey both we and he realize that he has very few options: go to jail, abandon (physically) the country and everything he is and has, or go back to war. What choice can he make? So what was my point about the "becoming a man" story? Well, the way I see it, the main character's final decision, is not just forced on him. It springs not from fear or just inevitability, but from his sense of responsibility towards his parents and friends – I'm not going to say 'country', this has nothing to do with flag waving patriotism. His accepting to go back, is an act of an adult. He accepts all the horror, the risk, the BS, the unfairness. He does it through a conscious decision. The decision is to take care of those who depend on him. That sounds pretty grown up to me.

Thanks go out to Kimberly Peirce, who wrote and directed this film. And directly in front of whom I was sitting quietly last night while she was presenting her movie.

You also may want to check out Harsh Times, Gunner Palace and The Execution of Private Slovik.
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Wish It Could Have Been Better
Ric-78 April 2008
Maybe the idea was to show the total hopelessness of the conflict--that it was not really a war but urban warfare, and that there is no way to win or to have a happy ending. But that's just an idea--it's not a movie.

I thought that the set-up was fine. But I am not sure the filmmakers knew where to go with it. Their take on the stop-loss policy is obvious, and it is a message that should be heard. But I think the film would have been more interesting if any character exhibited any real growth during the film. The vets were all depicted as basket cases--the most well-adjusted vet seemed to be the double-amputee--he told us why he would want to go back to Iraq and there was at least some productive purpose that would have been served by his return there.

Perhaps there are soldiers who don't mind being stop-lossed--who truly believe they are accomplishing something positive over there. It would have been refreshing to have a character like that--a non-basket case. It would have been good to hear arguments supporting the stop-loss program (if there are any).

The last 20-30 minutes of this film were baffling. The end of the film (not an ending, just an end) was very unsatisfying.

Ryan Philippe did a competent job, but rarely conveyed anything not apparent from the lines or situation. For example, you could see that a lot of his post-war angst was attributable to guilt. How that tied in with the ending is just a mystery to me.

I recall that a very similar military policy was explored by Joseph Heller in Catch-22. I think a comparison to that novel and film is more apt than comparing this to The Deer Hunter.

I wish this film could have been much better than it was.
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thoughts from an army wife.......
nataliestone_ar30 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
First I have to explain my husband is in Kuwait in holding to go to Iraq for his first tour. A group of us wives/girlfriends saw it last night. We were expecting to shed some tears and instead left angry. Don't get me wrong I loved the movie and will buy it when it comes out on DVD..I DO LOVE HOW IT WILL BRING THE EMOTIONS OUT OF YOU GOOD AND BAD... LET ME EXPLAIN....

1. All soldiers are informed of STOP-LOSS when they enlist. I'm sure most don't think that it will happen to them.

2. P.T.S.D....what some people have called Gulf War syndrome is REAL and is was well done in this movie...yes soldiers may beat a wife, get drunk, and yes take their own life. THIS IS REAL!!! Thank you for not sugar coating this!!!! 3. I was very upset in the women in this movie....kicking your husband out of the house after the stress of war.... then turning around and having the nerve to cry as they lower him into the ground.....then a soon to be wife not being able to wait for her soldier to finish one more tour of duty.....A mother helping a son run from what they both know is a duty that can not be helped...that is what he signed up to do.

4. Was happy to see that one soldier was able to rise up from all of the pain and loss. To become the soldier that he knew he could be....I also felt sorry for him for not having the support that he needed.

5. In real life the AWOL soldier would not have gotten off that easy.....demoted and docked a full months pay.......

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Another Forgettable Entry in the Iraq War Movie Mill
evanston_dad17 November 2008
Kimberly Peirce becomes one of the latest directors to try and only marginally succeed in making a compelling film about the Iraq conflict.

Peirce takes on as her subject the military's stop-loss clause, essentially a back door draft by which the military can use fine print in recruits' contracts to prevent them from getting out once their time is up. Peirce obviously feels strongly about the policy, but what should be a hard-hitting drama feels instead like a rather preachy after-school special. She coaxes a nice performance out of Ryan Phillipe, as the soldier who goes AWOL when his stop-loss clause is activated, but she doesn't fare as well with the rest of the cast. The film suffers from confusing editing, that doesn't always make it clear where characters are or how events are related to one another, and the writing at times is weak as well, with character motivations not coming across as clearly as they should.

I don't know what it is about the Iraq conflict that makes it so hard for filmmakers to make good movies about it. Maybe it will have to be over for a while before anyone can begin to approach it with any success.

Grade: B-
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National Lampoon's Sexy-N-Loose
thesar-222 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
My mistake for thinking this was a serious war-is-hell movie prior to seeing it. That all ended seconds into the film when the "MTV" logo appeared. It might as well been called "National Lampoon's Sexy-N-Loose." And it did play to the "MTV" crowd; the movie that followed those comical first few seconds played like the music videos they used to play 40+ years ago. At least Disney was smart enough to ship its Rated R stuff over to Touchtone and allowed us to take it seriously. Okay, I'm being harsh; it wasn't that bad of a film. However, it definitely has its share of overacting and the film is extremely biased/one-sided. Admittedly, I'm not a war movie buff. I can't watch 'Platoon,' 'Full Metal Jacket' or 'Saving Private Ryan' more than once. Sure they were good movies, but they're not my forte and they all seem to blend in after awhile to where I wouldn't be able to distinguish one from the next. Following a tour in Iraq, Phillippe plans life after the war but is drawn back in due to a clause in his contract. Or, at least, that's the military's plan until he goes AWOL and the characters speed cross-country on a few bucks amazingly never caught. No, I haven't been in any war, nor to Iraq, nor do I agree with it. I also don't have all the knowledge when it comes to recruitment or signing their contracts. I can say this: though I am sorry they're drawn back into this conflict, I can't feel too much for someone so dumb not to read the fine print. It's like someone on their deathbed leaning over to finally read the Surgeon General's warning on their box of cigarettes and say, "Oh, they're what? Deadly? I'll sue them!"
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Good initiative, Poor execution
ffrudderiii19 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It is unfortunate that between this film, In the Valley of Elah, Lions for Lambs, and Home of the Brave seem to all be based upon common stereotypes about veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The boozing, the fighting, the short-fuses, the broken marriages, guys freaking out and digging a foxhole in their front yard when they're drunk, etc etc etc.

Does it happen - yes, but not as often as one would think after having watched any of these movies. I think that it is unfortunate that these directors/producers/writers choose to grind their axe against the political establishment by portraying soldiers in such an atypical way. In this particular film, Kimberly Peirce didn't even throw us a bone, like showing the new children that were born while a family member was deployed, or the kid who grew up in some ghetto who can now afford college thanks to the GI Bill, or the couple who can afford a house, or start a new business, earn their citizenship, etc etc etc. Instead, we are treated to the stereotypes because the people who made this film only want to show you the bad side.

A couple of issues with the film itself: 1) somebody screwed up by putting Phillippe in for a Bronze Star with V after he led his squad down a tight alleyway after having been baited by a gunman in a taxi. Pretty stupid, but yes, it happens. 2) the humvees didn't have any turret armor, so we are supposed to believe it is a near the beginning of the war, yet every soldier and their brother has an ACOG and every possible attachment for their M4? sorry, don't think so 3) Timothy Olyphant as a Lieutenant Colonel? It's hard to believe, but I just checked an he turned 40 in May, so the timing isn't too off. 4) He strikes two soldiers to escape being sent to jail after saying that he wouldn't return to Iraq (upon having learned that he had been stop-lossed). So he's a fugitive. Then, when he finally turns himself in at the end, and they take him back, he keeps his rank and deploys with the same unit? Sorry don't think so.

I can only describe it as one giant stereotype of the Army and the Infantry. Do some of the events portrayed in this movie happen to some soldiers, yes. However, in this film you get practically every stereotype in the space of about 100 minutes, and really things just aren't like that for most soldiers returning. I wish the director had made a point of doing a little better research instead of starting off with her agenda and then making a film.

Of the movies I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the best one is probably Lions for Lambs, which is more a commentary on the sad state of Generation Y+ than it is about the Wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or the Bush Administration. If you really want to see this film wait for cable or Netflix it, don't pay cash directly to rent it.
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Insightful movie about loss and dealing with ones own fragile existence in Iraq
XFilesRocks13 July 2008
I really liked this movie. I wasn't looking for a bloody battle scene and there wasn't much of that expressed. Most of what was conveyed was the loss of friends in a situation that could happen to soldiers who march into harms way. Then the soldiers return home, back to the way things were? Their lives are not the same, and the people at home can't understand because they weren't there to see a friend die in their arms at the hands of some terrorist killers.

My brother just retired from the Army. He volunteered in Iraq for 1 year. He safely returned home, but his life had changed from that moment he was in Iraq. He said they lost a few young men, and another returned home severely burned from a cocktail thrown into the vehicle. At 130 degrees, how can they keep the windows closed in a military vehicle with the engine off. Two men that died were young (18 and 20). I feel the young soldiers have not received enough training and are too young to deal with the stress of war.

The movie had me thinking about the young men and women that barely have a year of training and next have RPGs hurling at them, roadside bombs, suicidal bombers walking into streets. How can anyone be trained to deal with that and be aware of it before it happens?

I commend the different positions on war in this movie: 1) Soldiers who are willing to die for their families and country. 2) Soldiers who have served their country and feel they should have the choice to step down from their jobs.

Stop-loss was something I never heard of until I saw the movie. How on earth can we say in the United States we have FREEDOM to choose if that privilege is removed when you enlist? It is like when you quit a job, move to another state, join a religion. FREEDOM to Choose! The Stop-Loss sanction nullifies the FREEDOM to step down after serving your country for 1 term or more. Do they think that will encourage people to sign up to serve in the armed forces if the contract removes their basic right of FREEDOM that we all hold so dearly. I was angry to hear soldiers are forced to return to serve multiple times. Many soldiers clearly need to stay home to recover and try to live a normal life instead of sending them back to die. It sounds as if these soldiers are no more than a body with a gun to send back into war.

I would recommend seeing this movie!
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Sadly one sided...
penandpaper5225 February 2008
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, 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.
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A Lost Stop
moutonbear255 April 2008
A bunch of American army boys waste away their time at camp, horsing around and yelling obscenities at each other while they wait their next posting. The style is gritty and raw. There are no Hollywood glamour shots of pretty boy stars, Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum or Joseph Gordon-Levitt; there is just confusion over where their day is headed. Before long, the team is manning a road blockade. Director Kimberly Pierce keeps the framing and the editing tight in this opening sequence and shoots the intensity high into the clear-blue, Iraq sky. Each car that approaches the young, scattered soldiers could be a disaster. One second they're lusting over a girl back home, the next they find themselves in the middle of a full- on ambush. The lot of them all fall into line and show what good soldiers are made of – boys that become men in a moment's notice without thinking. And then they fight. Moves are made in as calculated a fashion as is allowed in the back alleys of a foreign land. Some of the men live and some die fighting. Within minutes, STOP-LOSS has you and then without warning, the film suddenly turns into a hip-hop musical montage, establishing the stop- and-start pulse of the film that ultimately leaves it for a loss.

It has been nearly ten years since Pierce made her fearless directorial debut with BOYS DON'T CRY. It was a commanding assault on the viewer's nerves with each scene building panic and mounting anxiety. You were never given a chance to breathe and the tragic story it told became unforgettable as a result. This is why it is all so strange to see her impose breaks upon the viewer. Not only does it grind the flow to a halt in the dirt but it also exposes the need to repackage the current wave of Iraq war themed films. On the one hand, it makes some sense to cut the film together in an MTV-inspired style to market the war to the generation that is actually fighting it (it should also be noted that the film is MTV produced). On the other hand though, this approach subsequently comes across as a compromised version of Pierce's potential vision. That said, perhaps the new design is necessary in order to get the film's important message across and heard.

The message in this latest condemnation of the Iraq war effort is to bring attention to the "stop-loss" process. The term itself refers to the army's right to force soldiers into another tour of duty at the end of the term they voluntarily signed up for. It is only supposed to be invoked when the war is still ongoing so you can imagine the outrage felt by Brandon King (Phillippe) as he is expecting to be signing his discharge papers and is told instead that he is shipping back to Iraq. Infuriated by his government's backdoor approach to get around the lack of a draft, Brandon goes AWOL in search of a way out. While taking advantage of the soldiers that enlisted freely to fight for their country is appalling enough, it becomes even more so when you see how messed up the returning soldiers have become after balancing being boys and being men in such devastating situations. Pierce's subtle presentation of the young men of Middle America is smart enough not to exaggerate their psychological damage but their table manners speak volumes to make her point. These are men who cannot carry on a conversation without recounting atrocious experiences they suffered through and have no concept of how uncomfortable they are making everyone around them. Another tour of duty could reasonably crush them if it doesn't kill them. With that in mind, Brandon's escape is not just warranted but imperative.

At one point, Brandon makes a homecoming speech to the people of his Texas town. Midway, he is overwhelmed by how much he has been affected by the simple sights and smells of his home and he cannot go on. Everything he was fighting for becomes clear to him but a fellow officer interrupts his speech in favor of a more crowd-rousing message. People don't want to face the reality of the war; they just want to hear that their side is winning. And while Pierce's point is important and still firmly made, it is impossible to feel as if this film that took so many years to make is actually the film she intended and not a film that was designed to profit from a specific market. Still, it is worth applauding for providing a product that will be most enjoyed and appreciated by the demographic that is actually fighting on the front lines as opposed to an older generation that until now has been able to just sit back in the theatre and quietly criticize the war from afar.
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Utterly inaccurate and chaotic.
mjpetrario17 July 2013
The main problem I have with this film and many others at that, is the lack of research and/or military advisor's. It is almost as if the writers, producers, etc guessed the entire time during the making of it. Hollywood as a whole rarely, if ever, gets military uniforms right or close to it so I can't complain about that. Also in the film, we have chaotic firefights that include insane amounts of RPG's blowing things up at point blank range and the first .50 caliber machine gun ever that can't shoot through all. "Stop-Loss" also continues the Hollywood tradition of reloading a weapon once or twice, if ever. Stop-Loss in real life was/is much more common in active duty soldiers than it is National Guard. So I'm also left kind of confused as to why they used the NG plot. The storyline is pretty boring, there is an overage of cheesy military slang that nobody has used since the late 80's/early 90's. All military flaws aside, I personally flat out don't like this movie as a whole. It's right down there at the bottom of the barrel with "Home of the Brave" with 50 Cent and Samuel L. Jackson, and "Hurt Locker", (where apparently there's no rules for an EOD guy and he's a Ranger?). I believe that the personnel involved in the writing, producing, directing of this film, Stop-Loss had the best intentions to shed light on the epidemic that is Stop-Loss. However, this film is a travesty to anyone who, like myself, has experienced the Stop-Loss policy during OIF and OEF. Kimberly Pierce, Mark Richards, Greg Goodman, and Scott Rudin should "Stop" making stupid cheesy movies before they take another box office "Loss".
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Stopped in it's tracks....
DarknessNamed31 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Stop-Loss, produced by MTV Films and directed by Kimberly Peirce brings us a new a movie part of a small genre of military films that have popped up, not to glorify the horrors of war but to look at a different aspect of the soldier's psyche. In this case we are introduced to Ryan Phillipe's character who has experienced immense amounts of violence, blood, and sadness during his tour in Iraq and the numerous missions he took part in. His plans to disembark from the Army are halted when he is "stop-lossed" by the U.S. government and is re-enlisted against his will, prompting him to go on a journey to Washington to seek help from his senator whom he feels can help him get out of this situation. Performances all around were well done, and they help to make up for the major issues I have with this film. Ryan Phillipe and Joseph-Gordon Levitt stand out among the cast and help to keep the story from becoming dull or slow-moving. Now to the real issues, setting aside that Ryan Phillipe goes from Texas to Tennessee, to New York City, all on a tank of gas AND a motorcycle, there are glaring issues that need to be addressed about his character. He sells his car for $1000, using that money towards a set of Canadian identification, yet moments later he is standing on the Mexican border ready to walk across it. If Ryan Phillipe was so dead-set on going out of the country, why didn't he just use the Canadian papers that he had sold his car for, and dropped in $1000 for? Did he just go to Mexico because it was convenient, after he rode to Texas in a DAY for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's funeral on his new motorcycle? And why does he decide to go back to the Army after all? We see no sign of emotion on his face when he is sitting on the bus, was it all just a dream? You would think that a person who goes AWOL, which by the way is a very serious offense, would have a little more signs of resistance or emotion in their eyes when they are sitting on the bus of the thing which they swore minutes earlier was wrong and was something that they would never return to. Channing Tatum was also told to bring Phillipe in, in 14 hours or else Phillipe would face federal charges, Tatum fails to do this, yet Phillipe is SITTING ON THE BUS IN THE END OF THE MOVIE AS IF NOTHING IN THE MOVIE EVER HAPPENED. No charges filed? No demotion was in order? Nothing? This movie would have been a lot better if he had just shut up, and gone to Mexico, the ending is a clear discontinuity in terms of the characters and the emotions of the whole movie.
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A Narrative Trainwreck of Good Intentions
sf_knight10 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As a big fan of Kimberly Peirce's "Boys Don't Cry," I went to a sneak preview of "Stop-Loss" with positive expectations. However, despite its good intentions, this film is a muddled mess. It cobbles together a narrative that feels false and arbitrary given the particular group of soldiers the story focuses on. A group of lifelong friends from a small Texas town (which is itself portrayed in about as clichéd as an outsider's imagination of a Texas small-town could be) come back and all suffer shell-shock and trauma, as one might expect. However, Ryan Phillippe's character, expecting to be finished with his duty, reacts to the news that he is being "Stop-Lossed" (sent back on another tour of duty) by instantly breaking from every fiber of his upbringing. In about 90 seconds, he is a different man, rebellious, ready to run. Soon he is picking fights and wobbling dangerously close to uncontrollable Rambo territory even as we are supposed to believe that he has an unassailably correct belief that he shouldn't be forced to go back no matter what the military says. Unfortunately Phillippe (who had seemed to be becoming a better actor in 2007's "Breach") tips his hand here and reveals his limited range (not to mention a horrifically fake sounding Texas twang). Phillippe's equally unbalanced yet more ra-ra lifelong bud is played with an even more limited range of emotions by former (though-should-probably-have-stayed-a) model Channing Tatum, who admittedly does have the good sense to avoid even attempting a Southern accent here. Even poor Joseph Gordon Levitt, who has proved himself an able and promising young actor in several recent films), is reduced to seeming tinny and unconvincing here.

The paper-thin story sends Phillippe uselessly careening across the U.S. accompanied by his best friend's fiancée, an unconvincing device that accomplishes little. There are also lots of badly executed sequences of these fugitives driving and hiding, not to mention loads of clunky, repetitive dialogue that never gets us to the soul of these men who are supposedly suffering. In an example of unbridled directorial excess, the story even gets broken up several times by jarring, wholly unnecessary 'soldier videos' that supposedly mimic those created by the boots on the ground, but which look more professional than many music videos today and feel really inauthentic. Plus, they yank us out of the story again and again, and after awhile, it's hard to go back into it.

The ending is doubly unsatisfying in that, after forcing these characters to do fairly extreme things that their real-life counterparts would not do, and after making it very clear that we are supposed to be viewing Phillippe as the beleaguered hero on a quest to right a wrong no matter what the consequences, the movie turns on its heels and abandons all that in a flash. The characters and the movie end up where they started, and the audience, who has been shoe-horned into viewing Phillippe's rebellion and journey as something to root for, are abandoned. The director has forced us to slog along on this narrative road for two hours, and as an emotional viewing experience, the ending (even if it is supposed to say something about the inassailability of the military machine) pulls the trap door on us.

The director was present at a Q&A after the film, and she spoke about how she created these characters after talking to a lot of different real-life soldiers back from Iraq & Afghanistan. The film really feels like that -- and not in a good way. It is a patchwork of observations about the shell-shock of returning home without any real commitment to one set of lives. Peirce's "soldiers" are overstuffed amalgams who drink and yell and fight and shoot and even cry, but don't breathe.
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A solid attempt at seeing both sides
badajoz-15 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This film is never going to make money in the USA because all films and politicians have to make Amnericans feel good about themselves. This leaves one with the queasy feeling that not all is well - the US might not be doing the best thing by the Iraqis, after all whose country is it? Who invaded whom? And under what pretext? But the film is in favour of all those guys fighting on the ground, but they may be fighting the wrong war in the wrong place - and to conservative US that is not acceptable. So this film divides opinion. 'Hurt Locker' of course portrays US heroes so is going to be far more acceptable. The film has a fifties/forties feel in that a decent man makes one mistake, and becomes a fugitive. Montgomery Clift would have made this then. The film portrays a good man caught by duty and his own feelings of justice - a classic theme - well played by Ryan Phillippe, who does manage to show a good range of emotions, and who doesn't get the comfort of getting the girl into the sack - that was left for real life! The script shows the strain of loyalties and the effects of killing in a war that the West brought down upon a largely civilian population - sounds like Concord and 1776 to me! The supports act well and do not drown out the main action and character. But the film has a problem in that the spur for the action is played down too much - eg Brandon King refusing to be 'stop lossed' - and it does not want to make events too dramatic (something the more visceral 'Hurt Locker' engages). Therefore, the film tends to meander as it tries to be too understated. But it does get in several wry observations about an immigrant army, a creepy, smiling officer class, and promise all politicians. A good effort, but ultimately it gets caught between too many stools. A pity because the acting deserved more recognition than being tarred by the rabid, blind patriotism of Americans who see an anti-war and anti-US film!
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A little heavy handed
Smells_Like_Cheese3 April 2008
I didn't really know what to expect from Stop Loss, it was just playing at the theater that I worked at and I figured I would go ahead and check it out. So I saw it last night and I have to say that this was seriously one of the most depressing movies of 2008. I went away from this movie just feeling so sad and extremely low, which threw me off on the film. I'm not a supporter of the war in Iraq, I do have 2 cousins and a few friends who are fighting this war and I hate it, so seeing this movie just reminded me even more of that hatred I have. See, the thing is, is that this movie is a reminder to most people why war is Hell and also why they hate what's going on. While I appreciated Kimberly's message to us and reminds us of the pain these soldiers are going through, the story just remains in a biased plot of the constant battle against terrorism.

Brandon has just come home from Iraq and is just enjoying his Texas life with his best friend, Steve, and his other friends. They're drinking, flirting, and partying. But the war has ultimately gotten to them, they're hallucinating, hitting their wives, and are just going crazy. When Brandon is called for Stop-Loss, where he has to go back to Iraq when he was supposed to stay home, he understandably gets angry and runs for it. He tries to head for the border, but realizes that maybe his team needs him.

Stop Loss is a decent movie and it does have a very powerful message, while I always agree that a war movie is going to be very deep, I think this movie went a little further and could have been lighter, but that's just my opinion, I would have done the story a little different. I also understand Kimberly's message, she meant well with this movie, I think it doesn't work as well as her movie, Boys Don't Cry, but Stop Loss is definitely worth a watch. Ryan Phillipe is becoming a fine actor and holds the film very well, Channing Tatum does alright, enough to keep the film going. The story is a little much, but I think this is one movie you're going to have to judge for yourself.

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Michael_Elliott24 May 2008
Stop-Loss (2008)

**** (out of 4)

Hard hitting, Anti-Iraq film has Ryan Phillippe playing a U.S. soldier who leaves his final mission in Iraq but soon learns he's been stop-lossed, which means the government can break your original contract and send you back to Iraq. Phillippe refuses to go back so he goes AWOL and hits the road with his best friend's girl (Abbie Cornish) while trying to figure out what to do. Over the past few years there have been countless films protesting the Iraq war and all of them have been fair (Lions for Lambs) to really poor (Redacted) but this one here is clearly the best of the bunch but it's also one of the best war movies out there and clearly one of the best of 2008. The movie has a strong stance against the war but it's certainly Pro-Soldier and the film bleeds with love for the young men putting their lives on the line each day. The film opens with a scene in Iraq where the soldiers are working a checkpoint when a group of thugs show up with guns a soon a big battle breaks out and leads to tragedy. I really enjoyed what director Peirce did here by instead of focusing on the violence she clearly wants the viewer to see that these are kids doing this fighting. She makes it clear to us that it's kids doing the shooting and being shot at, which is something people and the media seems to forget. The Anti-Iraq stuff is handled very well and never becomes too preachy unlike many other recent films. I think the film's one problem is that it really should have ran at least an hour longer because the movie not only looks at Phillippe's situation but also two of his friends who are dealing with their own battles on returning home. The film is a lot like The Deer Hunter, a film that took three hours to tell its story, and I think that long running time would have worked well here. The two friends play a major part in the story and an emotional one so I think their stories could have been pushed out a bit further. The performances in the film are all rather remarkable and this is certainly the greatest work I've seen from Phillippe. I don't want to ruin anything but he has to go through all sorts of mental pain in the film and he pulls this off wonderfully well. I think Phillippe has always been a good actor but this film here pushes him to a great one. He really does give a strong, raw and highly emotional performance, which is the heart of the film. Cornish is also very good in her role as is Channing Tatum as the best friend. No matter where you stand on the actual war, that shouldn't keep you away from this film, which is quite original in how it tells its story and most importantly it does pay tribute to these kids who lost their lives on the battle field. This is a very strong and highly emotional film that pushes all the right buttons and really delivers.
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Read The Fine Print In Your Enlistment Contract
bkoganbing7 April 2008
As it is in the Iraq War as it has been since wars started once mankind figured out how to use hunting tools as weapons, the nature of the soldier is to fight. The military man doesn't question policy or the reasons why he's in a war, he just does the best he can and try to survive.

Which is what Sergeant Ryan Phillippe, hometown hero from Brazos, Texas who's done his tour of duty and is given the horrible piece of news that he's been ordered for another tour of duty in Iraq. They call it Stop-Loss hence the title of the film.

Phillippe's last action in Iraq involved a nasty urban fire fight where some good friends were killed. He just wants to go back to civilian life and kick back. But the army wants his combat experience.

What to do. Probably if Phillippe came from some liberal blue state he'd find a lot more sympathy in his course of action. But he comes from that reddest of red states, Texas. It's a whole different mindset there and his very upbringing is telling him he's got to shoulder the burden of arms again.

Stop-Loss is a good film from director/writer Kimberly Peirce who brought us Boys Don't Cry. Stop-Loss is not as powerful as Boys Don't Cry still it sends a powerful if conflicted message for the young people today who might just contemplate a military enlistment.

Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are also in the film as Phillippe's fellow soldiers who have differing attitudes towards the army and the Iraq War. Hard to know what is right in a situation like this. Where you're brought up and by who might be the reason you take one course of action as opposed to another.

For what Phillippe does and the rest do, you have to go see Stop-Loss. And this review is dedicated to all of the men and women in arms for the United States of America who carry out our policy and put their bodies and lives on the line for us. If our leaders err and they do many times, no blame should attach to them. They are the most precious resource of the United States of America.
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