Audiences are finding this draft just a little chilly
Stop-Loss (15) Director Kimberly Pierce Starring Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timothy Olyphant 113 mins Three star rating BY MICHAEL JOYCE Stop-loss is the small print that allows the US government to keep resen
Director Kimberly Pierce Starring Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timothy Olyphant
Three star rating
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BY MICHAEL JOYCE
Stop-loss is the small print that allows the US government to keep resending soldiers who thought that they had completed their time in the army back for ever more tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is, as one character puts it, a backdoor draft.
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And where there is a backdoor draft there is going to be backdoor draft-dodging, which is the option Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) has to consider when he comes home to Texas from a tour of duty in Iraq believing himself to be discharged only to be told he's to be shipped back in less than a month.
The film scores well for finding a fresh angle on the conflict. It really captures the way young men get caught up in army life and how - especially in Texas - the rest of society won't let you puncture that gung-ho facade.
It also has a tremendous cast, but loses marks for putting the gifted Gordon-Levitt (Brick, The Lookout) in a support role, while Phillippe gets the lead. Phillippe is a competent enough performer, but there is something intrinsically insipid about him - he's never going to amaze you.
There are plenty of empty melodramatic turns, lots of young men standing around shouting at one another and some ineffective scenes of soldiers having flashbacks to the conflict. Overall, it's nowhere near as insightful as In The Valley of Elah -although the final scene, while being nothing you haven't seen before, is very moving.
It has taken nearly a decade, but Pierce has finally produced a follow-up to the Oscar-winning Boys Don't Cry, arriving just in time to join the parade of unwatched Iraq films. In the US it managed one week in the lower reaches of the top 10.
It is shameful the way that audiences are refusing to face up to what it is happening, but on the other hand, they're absolutely right. They've seen it all before and without exception the Nam films were better.
We need a modern equivalent to John Wayne's The Green Berets.
We're now so thoroughly inured to this conflict, that some right-wing nut's piece of pro-war propaganda is just about the only film I can imagine actually engaging people with the subject.