The term "Stop-Loss" refers to a loophole that permits the military to retain soldiers beyond their required term of service. The film Stop-Loss tells the story of one man faced with just this situation. Following a brutal ambush that resulted in the deaths of several of his men, Staff Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) returns home to his hometown in Texas, only to be told by his superiors that he will be required to return to Iraq. Understandably, he balks at the idea and runs out on the Army and embarks on a road trip to Washington, D.C., accompanied by Michelle (Abbie Cornish), the fiancée of his lifelong friend Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum).Hearing good news about the film fills me with satisfaction. It's been a long time in coming. I think the move to March is a good thing for two reasons. First, it puts some distance between itself and all of these Iraq war films that are currently flopping. Second, we need more adult friendly dramas in the first quarter of each year. This year we got Zodiac. Maybe Stop-Loss will be 2008's quality sip of water in the usually barren sand of March. You should know too (just for giggles) that the unknown critic assures me that Channing Tatum is still allergic to clothing. What? I swear I didn't ask!
I realize that the plot synopsis conjures up any number of formulas- the road movie, with lots of colorful characters and picturesque stops along the way; the
chase thriller, with Brandon and Michelle hiding out from the law; even the coming home story, with battle-seasoned soldiers uneasily returning to their old lives. But Stop-Loss doesn't really fit into any of these categories. The film isn't so much about a plot as it is about the characters who inhabit it.
Stop-Loss is neither an angry film nor a despairing one, although at times it appears to be both. Instead, it's a surprisingly clear-eyed film about a man whose life has been changed by his war experiences, for better or worse. Whether he likes it or not, the Army has shown Brandon that he’s a born leader, and the film demonstrates it not only by the respect he gets from his fellow soldiers, but also by how lost they are when he’s not around. Rodriguez (Victor Rasuk), severely injured in battle, spends his days in a military hospital. Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is prone to becoming drunk and violent. And Steve finds that outside the military real life makes little sense to him anymore.
As for the awards potential of Stop-Loss, I'd say that a lot of it rests on how it catches on with the public. The film is set to be released in March 2008, which rarely bodes well for a movie's Oscar chances. In addition, while all of the performances are solid, none is particularly baity. Even the showier roles- Phillippe, Gordon-Levitt, Rasuk- lack the big histrionic moments that tend to come with performances that get awards attention. But what the Stop-Loss lacks in awards-show-ready clips it makes up for in textured storytelling and detailed characterization. And the feel Peirce exhibited for small-town life in Boys Don’t Cry is in full flower here. Stop-Loss is a major achievement, sure to be a discussion point among astute filmgoers when it’s released in March.
Oh, and here's the trailer which you may have seen already