• 43°

'Stop Loss': What it means to be a soldier

By John Anderson
Special to The Washington Post
Kimberly Peirce’s “Stop-Loss” is about soldiers returning from Iraq, trying to maintain some remnant of sanity while being thwarted by their government. “Stop-loss” is the process by which soldiers who have done their duty are told they have to do it again. As articulated subtly enough in Peirce’s pugnaciously pro-soldier script (written with Mark Richard), it’s a way for the government to avoid a draft.
Peirce, director of the Oscar-winning “Boys Don’t Cry,” walks a fine line between being political and being human. Human wins. That’s what might help “Stop-Loss” cure the allergy Americans have to Iraq war movies. Because it’s not about war. It’s about men.
Chief among them: Brandon King, an Army sergeant played by Ryan Phillippe, an actor still growing into his gravitas but who apparently has decided to use his powers to make serious movies. (His last two films were “Breach” and “Flags of Our Fathers.”) Brandon has spent his time in Iraq alongside his best friends, Steve (Channing Tatum) and Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
It must be said that one of the film’s flaws is the hand-held, on-the-fly camera that is supposed to effect a feel for the desert chaos of the soldiers’ existence. We’ve seen it done better, often by soldiers themselves. But the Iraq sequence is just setup. The real action is on the home front.
Though Steve yearns to leave Texas and even his girlfriend, Michele (Abbie Cornish), it’s Brandon who’s told he has to go back. Phillippe deftly translates the unspeakable anger of a soldier into action, expressing it physically instead of verbally. Brandon’s plight is touching, even pathetic: He has been told by his senator that if there’s anything he needs, just ask. So Brandon takes him at his word, deciding to go to Washington and ask not to go to Iraq. When Brandon hits the road, Michele is indignant enough, and maternal enough, to go with him.
It’s a remarkably entertaining movie, thanks in part to a first-rate cast and a director who knows you can’t make a point without calling everyone to attention.
“Stop-Loss”
R, 112 minutes
Contains violence, language and adult content.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Bell Tower Green renamed to honor Stanbacks; Nancy Stanback receives key to city

Business

Commissioners green light additional houses at Cherry Treesort in China Grove

Education

A.L. Brown will hold in-person, outdoor graduation

Local

Granite Quarry awards FEMA contract for Granite Lake Park

Local

City to vote on apartment developments, final phases of Grants Creek Greenway project

High School

High school football: North receiver McArthur a rising star

Columnists

Carl Blankenship: Pollen and prejudice make their return

News

Harris pitches $2.3T spending plan on trip to North Carolina

Nation/World

Murder case against ex-cop in Floyd’s death goes to the jury

Crime

Sheriff’s office: Man takes deputies on chase with stolen moped

Coronavirus

Afternoon, evening COVID-19 vaccination clinic planned Thursday

Crime

Concord man charged with woman’s murder in drive-by shooting

Ask Us

Ask Us: Have city, county elected officials received COVID-19 vaccine?

Local

City gives away nearly 100 trees during ‘We Dig Salisbury’ event

Local

Political Notebook: Bitzer expects most ‘Trump-like’ candidate to be favorite in state’s Senate race

Crime

Blotter: Concord man arrested in Rowan for indecent liberties with children

Coronavirus

Half of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

Nation/World

Police: FedEx shooter legally bought guns used in shooting

News

Hester Ford, oldest living American, dies at 115 … or 116?

Local

Size of pipeline spill again underestimated in North Carolina

BREAKING NEWS

Kannapolis Police searching for suspect who fled scene of homicide

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park