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Stop-Loss


By G. Brian Davis | Posted 3/26/2008

Stop-Loss, statement movie du jour written and directed by Kimberly Peirce, is many things, but it is neither the poignant classic it aspires to be nor the opportunistic fluff it appears to be. After an inevitable Iraq war battle sequence, sergeants King (Ryan Phillippe) and Shriver (Channing Tatum) return to cheers from their Texas hometown. But when they try to turn in their gear, they hear some hard news: They’ve been stop-lossed, or involuntarily retained beyond their service contract. King doesn’t take the news well, fleeing Texas and enlisting Shriver’s girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) to drive him. Thematically crowded, the movie touches on soldiers’ mental health, romantic difficulties, suicide, desertion, physical crippling, and immigration, among other issues, and specifically indicts the “president” while carefully avoiding his name. But even more relevant--and less referenced--are the words “breaking point,” which is a phrase never uttered in dialogue but that nonetheless shades every character in every scene. To her credit, Peirce manages to keep all of her balls in the air as she juggles myriads of themes, plot points, and angst-filled heroes, but Stop-Loss reeks of her effort to do so and never achieves the emotional impact it so desperately desires.

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