Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Review - Stop Loss

Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillipe) is as happy as you would expect him to be upon returning home to Texas following an arduous and harrowing tour of Iraq. But the government has brought about a cloud to rain on his parade, in the form of the titular “stop loss” policy, which allows the military to send back would-be discharged soldiers for another call of duty.

The first major release of the year?

That's what many critics are calling Kimberley Pierce's Stop Loss. And I would have to agree with them. However, I also have to point out that being the first important movie of the year is not necessarily an advantageous title to hold (particularly when it comes to Oscar consideration).

But first, my thoughts: For someone as politically un-opinionated as myself (we don't get as much coverage of the American aspect of the war here in Canada), the film struck a lot of the right chords with me. From the riveting beginning, wherein we witness an intense bout of urban combat in Iraq (thumbs up to two-time Oscar winner Chris Menges for another terrific job), to the dizzying finale, Stop Loss remains a character-driven narrative that never becomes too preachy (at least not for me). Ryan Phillipe and Channing Tatum both give more-than-convincing performances, disproving my suspicions that they were merely man-candy marketing ploys, and Pierce's direction avoids falling into the realm of the glamourous and the self-indulgent. The film is honest yet interesting throughout.

Unfortunately, I doubt Stop Loss will turn many heads in the grand scheme of things. If this weekend's box office numbers are any indication, most folk would rather see another lame parody movie or B horror flick. Left-winged people may be inclined to go see Stop Loss, but if that couldn't help the longevity of last year's crop of war movies, why should this be much different? Right-winged people may not give this movie a chance at all, since they are so easily turned off by Hollywood's liberal approach to the war in Iraq. As for ambidextrous people like myself, even if they do admire this film as I do, it will likely be forgotten in a couple of months, when the tidal wave of summer blockbusters hits the shore.

Stop Loss earns my seal of approval, but I'm afraid I have to say, “no Oscar for you” to this solid film.

*** out of ****

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