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Compelling topic of 'Stop Loss' gets lost in muddy plot

Stop Loss


H1/2 (out of 5)


Ryan Phillippe as

Brandon King

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tommy Burgess

Rob Brown as Isaac


Channing Tatum as

Steve Shriver

Timothy Olyphant as Boot Miller

Abbie Cornish as Michelle

Studio: MTV Films

Directed by: Kimberly Peirce


I am getting so tired of these movies about the war in Iraq. But Hollywood isn't. And they are doing exactly what they're accusing George W. Bush of doing -- not listening to the American people.

But like John Stewart pointed out at the Oscars, it's Hollywood's job to stay the course and keep making these movies that no one wants to see.

The catch is that John Stewart was joking. The filmmakers in Hollywood are not.

Unlike the media culture of World War II, the American public is bombarded by news and reality from the war. If we can tune into the nightly news, or any 24-hour news network, to get this, why do we want to pay money to see it in the theaters?

But that's not stopping people like Kimberly Peirce. This issue-hound hasn't made a movie since 1999's "Boys Don't Cry." Now, instead of taking on the rape and murder of a transman, Peirce is taking on the U.S. Army with "Stop-Loss."

The movie follows a gung-ho soldier named Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) who is awaiting discharge.

However, after a weekend of partying on leave, he learns that he has been stop-lossed, which is being called back to duty after your tour is over. King refuses to go back to Iraq, so he goes AWOL and tries to flee north, first to get the help of his home-town Senator, then to Canada.

Like other god-awful Iraq war movies such as "In the Valley of Elah" and "Home of the Brave," Peirce tries to show the plight of the American soldier. However, she does a disservice to our men and women in uniform by showing them all as uncontrollable head cases.

This seems to be indicative of the Hollywood elite's general view of not just our military, but also of people in flyover country. Replete with wretchedly dumbed-down Texas accents, this movie shows all the Iraq veterans as uncultured rednecks that are just a hair's breadth away from being wife-beating, alcoholic, violent, unstable sociopaths.

War is hell, and war has been hell since the beginning of time. However, movies like this would have us believe that the war in Iraq is a worse hell for various reasons.

But I have known veterans of many wars, and they all seem to be able to deal with the horrors of the battlefield. They don't all come home to beat their women, commit suicide or drive cars into trees.

The saddest part of this movie is that Peirce does hit on a topic that is worthy of examination. I don't think it's a bad thing to contemplate the legality and even the morality of stop-lossing soldiers who have served their tour and want to go home.

But amid rants about President Bush and the properness of the war, the bigger picture is lost in muddy waters. This movie could have addressed a real issue, but instead turns into "Home of the Brave: Part II" without 50 Cent.

To the film's credit, it manages to redeem itself a bit in the end, unlike some of the other Iraq war movies I've seen lately. However, there's a lot of anti-soldier mentality to sift through before you get to anything of substance.

Kevin Carr is an independent writer, journalist and filmmaker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.