Stop-Loss

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Article Reviews

Directed by Kimberly Peirce (Paramount, 2008)

Five years and more than 4,000 U.S. deaths after the president declared "mission accomplished," the American public is discouraged, distracted, and dispirited by the war in Iraq, eager to move on but unable to imagine an exit strategy.

In her new pro-soldier, antiwar drama about returning veterans equally unable to escape the snares of the endless war in Iraq, director Kimberly Peirce may have crafted just the sort of war story American audiences would be willing to watch.

Returning home to Texas after his second tour in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) is a leader other soldiers want to serve under. Tough, decisive in battle, and attentive to his troops, King has served his country with distinction and suffered particularly devastating losses. Now, like Ulysses, he wants to hang up his weapons and pack away the disturbing memories into a tight box in the back of his mind.

But as King begins what is supposed to be his discharge from the Army, he discovers the government and the war are not done with him. The military has revoked his release from duty and is sending him back to Iraq for a third tour.

As a number of his returning buddies begin to disintegrate under the delayed stress of their experience, King's simmering astonishment and rage at this injustice cannot be tamped down. Yesterday's war hero suddenly finds himself a runaway with no place to go. Returning to the war is hideously unjust. Becoming a felon is totally unacceptable.

By focusing on a heroic but flawed soldier to express her frustration and rage at the war, and by grabbing her audience with a fast-paced tale about young men, guns, and fast cars, the director of Boys Don't Cry (Hart-Sharp Entertainment) has tapped into the contemporary zeitgeist, offering us a film that gives voice to America's sense of entrapment in a war that was supposed to make us free and safe.