Ticket price: 10.99
Seat: rear right
Attendance: about 10
Food: Dr. Pepper, Reese Bites
Pre-show ads: the Mint, Coke, Toyota, Axe, Telus
Trailers: Street Kings, Passchendaele, Son of Rambow, Defiance
This is a bit of a mixed bag of a film; given that it was released by MTV films, it’s not surprising that it should have a youth focus. It is the youth of America that is being sold tours of duty in Iraq.
One of those tours is depicted in the film’s opening scene, setting a foundation for the decisions made by Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Philippe) and the surviving members of his squad afterward. The film is pretty strong as it continues to their rotation home, where King expects to receive his honorable discharge and get on with his life; only to learn that he is being called up for another tour whether he likes it or not. Meanwhile, his friends are having troubles adjusting to civilian life.
Unfortunately, the momentum of that premise is lost somewhat when King goes AWOL and travels north, hoping to obtain the help of an opportunistic senator. The film becomes a bit of a laundry list, showing a visit to the family of a fallen squad member, meeting another soldier on the run, visiting a squad member who is in the VA hospital, and so on.
Don’t get me wrong, this is often a touching film and Philippe is well cast as the strong silent type who wants the President to hold up his end of the deal. He is well-supported by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Abbie Cornish, and pretty much everyone else. His commanding officer and father are both very well-drawn, with the father (apparently a Viet Nam vet) speaking volumes with very few words.
The script becomes even more muddled in the final act, to the point where I found myself wondering what we are supposed to take away from it. Is it simply a depiction of a common situation? Is it a bad thing that soldiers are stop-lossed, or is it a necessity in a difficult war effort?
There are several kinds of war (and after-war) films. Some are essentially diaries or exposés of a soldier’s experience, like Oliver Stone’s films about Viet Nam; others are meant to evoke a mood, like Terence Malick’s version of The Thin Red Line; and some are satires of the decisions who send guys like King into war in the first place, as with Kubrick’s films. In true MTV fashion, Stop-Loss borrows elements from all of these, and while it is a good start for what will undoubtedly be a long string of movies about Iraq, the whole is not more than the sum of its parts.
Crowd reaction at end of movie: none
Weird credit(s): n/a
Credit cookie?: none
For further consideration: if nothing else, the choice of Toby Keith’s song is apropos.
Opening next week: Street Kings, The Visitor, Smart People, Prom Night, Young@Heart
Please god, anything but: Young@Heart