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“No matter what side you are on, this film will move you to learn more.”_ Stop Loss _

Title: Stop Loss

There are war movies and then there are movies about war. The new film Stop Loss is a movie about life. Life that just so happens to be effected by war. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into a movie about the “conflict” in Iraq that had a huge MTV FILM PRESENTS label stamped across it. I predicted one-sided gibberish that tried to pass itself off as art to a spoon fed mass culture. And most of the time I would be correct. Luckily the backbone of this film is writer/director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t cry) who tells an intriguing story wrapped in small town America. It is as patriotic as they come without being shy about pointing fingers at what is wrong with the system. It makes no excuses in its bold statements of what is right and wrong. She brings to light an intriguing issue that many, myself included, have no idea is happening. God bless American Cinema.

Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) has done his tour of Iraq and returned as a decorated war hero. He is ready to kick back in his small Texas hometown and get on with his life. He has done his part and done it well. Returning with him are his best friends and war-mates Shriver (Channing Tatum) and Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Like King, Shriver is done serving but Burgess has one tour left. When King goes in to sign his release papers he finds that good old Uncle Sammy has other plans. King has been stop-lossed. He has been summoned back to another tour in Afghanistan regardless of what his original contract stated. The President has trump power making him able to call anyone back into duty he chooses. Sort of a back door draft if you will. King must now fight the system as hard as he fought the enemy and figure out how to get out of this unfair political loophole. All the while trying to hold together his buddies who have been physically and mentally wrecked by the things they had to see and do overseas.

Though not a grand film, it is a grand story. Peirce, who has a brother currently serving in the war, gathered a lot of information by chatting with those in the military, and it was through these conversations she first heard of the Stop Loss issue. Like her prior film Boys Don’t Cry Peirce directs a film streaming with undertones of anger and tension. She has a knack of showing the dark side of events and how they impact the innocent. This film also show the mental and physical elements of war that the media often withhold.

The one thing that bothered me about this film was the horrible Texas accents. Phillippe does an amazing job with his character as long as he keeps his mouth shut. Once he talks it all goes south. Also, the script has Brandon and Shriver growing up in the same small Texas town, yet Shriver has no accent at all. This small detail was distracting but will probably not be noticed by those in the other 49 states. Another strong performance is brought by the only dominant female character Michelle played by Abbie Cornish. This Australian plays small town Texan convincingly and brings a strong supporting role.

Stop Loss is rated R for graphic violence and pervasive language. The violence takes place mainly in the war scenes though there are a few scuffles once the guys return to the states. The language is what you would expect from angry young men and is prevalent throughout. Again, this is not an anti-war film. If anything it is as positive a spin on serving to come out in sometime. But there is a terrible situation taking place with young men and women and this film boldly tells it story. No matter what side you are on, this film will move you to learn more. I give it a solid 3.75 out of 5. It surprised me and delivered the unexpected.

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and co-hosts a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website www.mungleshow.comReview copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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