3 out of 5 stars
You can’t fault Kimberly Peirce’s commitment to tackling hard issues. Nine years after the transgender tragedy of Boys Don’t Cry, the director follows up by addressing the war in Iraq and the damage done to the American soldiers. To hit all of her big points, Peirce gives us three tortured souls from a small Texas town (a location chosen, no doubt, to get in a jab at that state’s former governor). Fresh from Iraq (vigorously shown in shaky home-video footage, the emerging cliché of Iraq dramas), Brandon (Phillippe), Steve (Tatum) and Tommy (Gordon-Levitt) return to Texas, relieved and ready for discharge. Oops. Given the troop shortages, Brandon is stop-lossed—called back to active service per the standard enlistment contract. Next thing you know, he’s on the lam with Steve’s girlfriend, Michelle (Cornish).
At first, the aggressive use of loud rock, handheld cameras and flashy shock-cut editing makes for a refreshing change from the sober tones of In the Valley of Elah and its ilk. But once Brandon and Michelle hit the road, Peirce reverts to a more conventional, earnest style, drained of the initial energy that gives the opening minutes some punch. While Phillippe does a perfectly creditable job and Cornish is suitably torn by her divided loyalties to two men, Tatum and especially Gordon-Levitt are utterly wasted, used like extras when either of their stories seems interesting enough for a film of its own. So, young talent is treated as disposable. Ironically, that’s Peirce’s main criticism of the war.


Release details

Release date:
Friday March 28 2008
112 mins

Cast and crew

Kimberly Peirce
Kimberly Peirce, Mark Richard
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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