‘Stop-Loss’ is the rule that stops American soldiers leaving a conflict even after they have completed their tour of duty. This fate befalls Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe), a former star college footballer, whose return from Iraq alongside his fellow soldiers is met with much fanfare. Writer-director Kimberley Peirce uses their struggle to reintegrate into their small Texas hometown to look at how a loss of faith in God, Uncle Sam and the notion of moral right affect the minds of young American soldiers.
While In The Valley of Elah and the forthcoming Grace is Gone both attempted to tell Iraq war stories from within the confines of the American border, this film stems from a belief that American audiences have been so effectively fed with images of hate towards the Iraqi people that they struggle to have empathy with Iraqi characters. Peirce’s solution is to turn Stop-Loss away from war movie testosterone and steer the story towards the territory she so expertly essayed in Boy’s Don’t Cry – the alienation and struggle of young, blue-collar Americans in contemporary life. Consequently, the pace and tone of Stop-Loss is closer to Coppola’s The Outsiders than Cimino’s template busting The Deer Hunter. Peirce’s accomplished filmmaking and fine performances overcome the predictability of a narrative asserting that occasionally the war at home can be as tough as the battlefield.
General release from Fri 25 Apr.