SXSW Movie Review: Stop-Loss

When director Kimberly Peirce took the stage, she called Stop Loss a tribute to the troops. Considering her own brother is a soldier in Iraq, why would she make them all look like incompetent, drunk messes of human beings?

The story follows a group of soldiers from a small Texas town as they come back home. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) has just finished two tours and is going home for good. Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) is also coming home, and is ready to marry his sweetheart Michelle. Things go wrong when Brandon finds out that the government has forced him to serve another tour, he has been Stop-Lossed. Trying to face either going back to war or fleeing the country, Brandon is in for the biggest decision of his life.

I have so many problems with this film. Other than nothing being more annoying than an inconsistent accent that floats in and out between scenes, I could not tell what type of message that this film was trying to push. This is a film that is trying to push an agenda, without a doubt. Who is this film being made for though? There are several ways that you could interpret the meaning of this film: A tribute to the troops fighting, to the troops who have died for no reason, to the troops who are stop-lossed, to the families, a message for the government, pro-war, anti-war…who knows?

If this film were a tribute to the fighting troops, then I would probably take offense to every soldier in this film being portrayed as a drunk raving lunatic. Not every soldier has post-traumatic stress and dangerous hallucinations, but in this film they do. The film also had a hard time sorting out its stance on the war. It makes the film seem like a giant contradiction that ultimately confuses its audience. The film does not hesitate to take any shots at the government, but also treats the war and the soldiers as a necessary action within the same breath. Stop Loss was just a big hot mess of a film, that I’m sure will sell well with teenage girls.

A film filled with too much cheese, too little substance, too much contradiction and not enough direction, Stop-Loss is one of the year’s worst films. It’s a shame, this film could have been something, if it would have just taken a stance and said something important.

Grade: D

Stop Loss was directed by Kimberly Peirce. It made its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 13, 2008. It has a 112 minute runtime.

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