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Stop-Loss - drama DVD review
STOP-LOSS Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown, Channing Tatum
Director: Kimberly Peirce   Studio: Paramount/MTV
DVD release: 08 July 2008   Runtime: 111 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), Commentary with director Kimberly Peirce and co-writer Mark Richard, The Making of STOP-LOSS, A Day in Boot Camp, Deleted Scenes

I started Stop-Loss with the thought that it was going to be a big anti-government, anti-war rant. Although it does make some points about both of those things, it is actually a very well-done movie with solid characters and acting.

Army squad leader Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) is in the final days of his tour in Iraq when his unit is confronted at a checkpoint and follows the insurgents into the city streets. Three of his fellow brothers in arms are killed, and Brandon feels responsible for their deaths. The remainder of the men return from war, including Brandon's best friend, Steve (Channing Tatum), and close friend Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Although many of the men plan to return to service, Brandon and Steve are done with their commitment and intend to leave the service. Steve's fiancée, Michelle (Abbie Cornish), is thrilled that they will finally be able to get married.

As Brandon attempts to complete the paperwork to get out, he is informed that he falls under the "stop-loss" clause invoked by the government: due to the fact that there is no draft and there are fewer people signing up for military service, the government can call back any soldier into active duty without question. Brandon is to be shipped back to Iraq. Shaken and furious at this news, he goes AWOL and on the run. Michelle accompanies him, providing her car and a listening ear. As the military closes in on him, Brandon considers all of his options-including running to Canada or Mexico.

Stop-Loss is a powerful movie. It gets into the head of these soldiers, and you begin to see them as real people rather than just words in the newspaper or a quick story on the evening news. The viewer is treated to a sometimes difficult look inside the hearts and minds of these soldiers and their feelings upon returning stateside after serving in a war zone. Overall, the movie really gives a balanced look at the stop-loss situation, which is astoundingly widespread and prevalent, according to statistics shown at the end of the movie.

Ryan Philippe does an excellent job showing the emotional rollercoaster a true military hero would go through in a similar situation, from decorated soldier to persona non grata within a short period of time and the hopeless-seeming choices that surround him. Director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) does an excellent job garnering a wide emotional range from the characters of the film.

This movie shows the reality, the true heroism of these soldiers. The decisions that Brandon makes throughout the movie always stay true to his character, and I never had cause to argue that he was acting in different ways in different situations. I felt incredibly patriotic after this movie was finished - it is very well-made, although difficult to watch, and is highly recommended.
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reviewed by Melissa Parcel
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