Stop-Loss

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Kimberly Peirce’s home-front drama arrives at its destination burdened with two pieces of baggage: the dismal track record of other films about the war in Iraq, and the wildly high expectations for the director’s first feature since her superb debut, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, nine long years ago. ‘Stop-Loss’ is being nervously marketed as a beefcake buddy movie, which isn’t all that misleading – both of Peirce’s films to date are fascinated by an American brand of working-class machismo that’s as feckless as it is potentially explosive.

Here, conflicted blue-collar manhood is represented by Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe), a chiselled-chinned natural leader, and his brothers-in-arms, strapping sniper Shriver (Channing Tatum) and puppyish ne’er-do-well Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). After a tense, tightly constructed Tikrit firefight and some YouTube-style clips of profane aggro-bonhomie among the soldiers, the guys return home to small-town Texas, where they’re showered with ticker-tape parades and bathe themselves in alcohol. Soon enough, Shriver is digging a trench – or is that a grave? – in the front yard, Tommy is ploughing his car into inanimate objects and a shocked Brandon is ‘stop-lossed’: shipped back to Iraq against his will.

The rest unfolds as a halting road movie: Brandon goes Awol in search of a potentially sympathetic US senator, with Shriver’s girl, Michelle (Abbie Cornish), inexplicably in tow. The film meanders from one melodramatic set piece to another (a cemetery-side throwdown is particularly unfortunate), while the resigned conclusion is disappointing on the level of both politics and drama. It’s the film equivalent of a weary shrug – capturing the national mood at a moment when we’d all prefer some mood enhancers.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday April 25 2008
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Kimberly Peirce
Screenwriter: Kimberly Peirce, Mark Richard
Cast: Ryan Phillippe
Abbie Cornish
Channing Tatum
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Rob Brown
Victor Rasuk
Terry Quay
Matthew Scott Wilcox
Connett Brewer
Timothy Olyphant
Josef Sommer
Linda Emond
Ciarán Hinds
Mamie Gummer
Alex Frost
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