MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -4

Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ciaran Hinds, Timothy Olyphant, Victor Rasuk and Rob Brown. Written by Mark Richard & Kimberly Peirce. Directed by Kimberly Peirce.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Philippe) makes a celebrated return to his small Texas hometown following his tour of duty. He tries to resume the life he left behind with the help and support of his family and his best friend, Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), who served with him in Iraq. Along with their other war buddies, Brandon and Steve try to make peace with civilian life. Then, against Brandon's will, the Army orders him back to duty in Iraq, which upends his world. The conflict tests everything he believes in: the bond of family, the loyalty of friendship, the limits of love and the value of honor.

PREVIEW REVIEW: For the first 45 minutes I was ready to join Cindy Sheehans picket line. For not since Good Night and Good Luck has a film been so successful a tool for one-sided indoctrination. And guess which side Hollywood decided to take concerning our involvement in Iraq?

Stop-Loss (subtle title) graphically details the horrors of war and its aftermath realities that cannot be disputed. But suddenly writers Mark Richard & Kimberly Peirce and the like-minded cast started laying it on a bit thick. I began to feel like I was tied down in a communist debriefing room. One view was being promoted the best way to support our troops is to bring them home. Though we do see the enemy in a couple of compromising positions, the focus is never on them. There are no two sides to the story here. Its all about our military and our government. Your enjoyment level will depend upon on your perspective.

Not only does the audience undergo the battle scenes, getting to watch a guys head blown off and a little kid gunned down, but then we see our homecoming soldiers betrayed by their government forced to return to battle due to some fine print in their sign-up papers. Oh, but it doesnt stop there, folks. It seems each and every returning Iraq vet is undergoing a mental breakdown, causing one to punch his fiance in the eye, after which he digs a fox hole in the front yard and sleeps in it, holding his .45. Another shoots up his own wedding gifts. Then a vet blows his brains out after his girl leaves him. And they want these guys to go back?

Theres a side trip to see a recovering hospitalized pal who had his arm and leg ripped off in an explosion plus his once handsome face is scarred, and hes blinded. And just in case you miss the impact, the camera returns several times to each wound. Its effective. Again, no one is arguing war is hell. Oh, but theres still more to bring that truism home. A U. S. senator, a very Republican looking fellow, dismisses the highly decorated soldier when he calls for help. And then, there are lots of sweat-soaked nightmares and lots of jabs at how badly the war is being run. Difficult to argue with any of this stuff, but the filmmakers agenda dominates the story. And because everybody feels so sorry for themselves, its difficult to feel any empathy. Each actor gets his own losing-it scene, where he points a gun at some civilian. The follow up scene has each getting the heck beat out of him and later he gets to cry. Had they given these guys a scene where they laugh at a Three Stooges film, each actor could have claimed he got to run the emotional gambit.

No matter how one feels about our presence in Iraq, it is rather naive to think of our presence there in black or white terms. And it is naive to think that leaving will be the solution protesters think it will be. A first-rate movie with an objective is much more stimulating when it respectfully presents other points of view. This one doesnt.

Provocative, well acted and armrest gripping, Stop-Loss is good filmmaking. Only one thing could have made it better. They should have shown George W. using the soldiers sisters for target practice. Boo, hiss.

DVD Alternative: The Best Years of Our Lives. Fredric March (one of the screens best actors), Myrna Loy and an all-star cast tell a sensitive story of returning WWII servicemen and how they must adapt to civilian life. This seven-Oscar-winning film also deals with prejudice and longing, but without offensive language or sexual explicitness. Real-life disabled veteran Harold Russell won two Oscars for this film as Best Supporting Actor and a special award for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans. Although some of the dialogue may seem strange to younger generations, this really is fabulous filmmaking. It also reminds us that when the war ends, struggles continue for those who sacrificed their time and were willing to die for their country.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Paramount Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: A couple of crude sexual references early on.

Obscene Language: I lost count; the f-word evidently being as popular in the military as it is in Hollywood screenplays.

Profanity: Around 15 profane uses of Gods name or Christs many from the lead character.

Violence: Wartime battles that include civilians getting gunned down and soldiers blown apart; stateside battles a barroom brawl, an alley brawl and a funeral site brawl; we learn of a suicide but do not see the incident. Blood: A great deal of blood is seen during the battle scenes.

Sex: Implied sex between an unmarred couple, but not shown; lots of girls dressed provocatively in a bar.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: A great deal of drinking, including several drunk scenes; several characters, including the pretty heroine smoke.

Other: None

Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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