Coming at the end of a whole string of releases about the Iraq conflict probably means that Stop-Loss’s audience ratings will suffer because of sympathy fatigue – people are, to a certain extent, all Iraq’d out.
However, this is a movie that is far better acted, scripted and shot than either Redacted or Rendition and deserves a bigger audience than it will probably get.
After one last tour of duty, three soldier buddies return to the States. Their leader, Brandon (Ryan Phillippe) is relieved because he’s about to get out of the army and can see the fragile mental state his friends Steve (Channing Tatum) and Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are in. He wonders whether he could take another tour, so when he discovers he has been stop-lossed (refused permission to leave the army because his country still needs him) and receives orders to report back for duty he loses control and punches out his commander (Timothy Olyphant). Brandon decides to go on the run with the help of Steve’s estranged fiancé Michelle (a stunning performance from Abbie Cornish), but finds his ties to an army he now despises are almost as strong as the ties of loyalty to his friends and family.
There’s an inevitability to the final outcome and you will find yourself getting really angry about just how their own country could treat these young men so appallingly. It’s a mark of just how good the acting is that you warm to these flawed characters and sympathise with them in their no-win situation. This is no gung-ho examination of war, but more an accusatory finger pointing at a government that sees only a ‘bigger picture’ and refuses to acknowledge the damage done to individuals by its policies.