review: Stop-Loss (2008)

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Stop-Loss refers to the Stop-loss policy used by the US Military to involuntarily extend the length of active duty that a US service member undertakes. Basically it means that even when a soldier has reached their agreed date for the end of their active duty, the military can invoke the policy to send that soldier back to active duty. It has been described in some quarters as a “back-door draft“. This film is about a one such fine soldier (played by Ryan Phillipe) who has been stop-lossed and what happens to him and his close knit group.

To be honest Stop-Loss is one of those films that just doesn’t really go anywhere… Ok now, lots of films don’t go anywhere, but they aren’t really meant to and it works. Stop-Loss is not one of those film. Being generous I’ll say that there was a kernal of an idea there and also I actually do admire that they made the film in the sense that while I’d heard of this “back-door draft” I didn’t know much about it and it’s not something you hear about that much over here. So that was interesting. Also because I’m a bit of a pinko it appealed to the liberal side of me. All well and good however, it’s just not that good a film.

There are moments to it, there are good scenes and decent performances, but on the whole I just couldn’t tell if it wanted to be all out against war, if it just wanted to show the stresses that soldiers are put through, how war changes them, how the people at home are affected by it or just highlight the practice of stop-loss and come out against it, or not. Honestly, the film just didn’t follow through on any of them really and ultimately it was pretty unsatisfying. It had a good premise, I liked the range of characters that it covered but since it never really added enough depth to any of them it’s hard to say that it was really worth making in the first place.

Anyway, like I said, there were good parts. I particularly liked seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt – I liked him in 3rd Rock From The Sun and I loved Brick so it was great to see him in the film, though… like everyone in this film, he probably could have done more.

Ah, it’s frustrating, thinking back there were good scenes and while the characters were somewhat stereotypical they weren’t really overly so, so it could have gotten away with it if it was just a tighter film. I’d loved to have liked this film but it just didn’t have the focus that it needed to make it relevent and in the end it just petered away into the ether. Forgettable.


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