Stop-Loss – DVD Review

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To be stop-lossed in the Armed Forces is to have your contract extended by the government involuntarily. Ever since Vietnam, the Armed Forces have occasionally extended the enlistments of soldiers in crisis situations in every conflict. With a plethora of films bombing at the box office about the latest conflict (Iraq II), the latest was Kim Peirce’s first film since 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry about this process appropriately entitled Stop-Loss.

Following the tale of Sergeant King (Ryan Phillippe) and his friends (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum) who are stop-lossed after returning from Iraq and King’s reaction to it. Following his friends’ reactions, as well as their adaptation to civilian life after returning home, Stop-Loss was a box office bomb featuring talented young actors as opposed to a box office bomb featuring experienced hands. That’s about the only difference between Stop-Loss and other bombs such as Home of the Brave and In the Valley of Elah, amongst others, as they show the one thing Hollywood today doesn’t have on old Hollywood: subtlety.

The film, which was written by Peirce as well, as it starts out well. Peirce captures Iraq in a way that is engaging and authentic. The sort of urban warfare they engage in, as well as little things like the way they move, is wonderfully shot and set up. We get little hints of character early on that help develop them later on. The opening fifteen minutes do more to develop the story, and set up characters we like, and the resulting 98 minutes does nothing with it. There’s a story to be told here about war that hasn’t been told, Peirce just doesn’t do it with any style. Her relative inexperience as a director and a writer shows; for material that could have some bite, or least be thought-provoking, but instead just resembles an anti-war screed you could read anywhere on the web by a 16-year-old.

While major motion picture studios ought to look to Vietnam War films for a more nuanced approach to film-making, Stop-Loss should be avoided at all costs. Not for its politics, as this is a free country after all, but for its shoddy-script and third-rate story.

Presented in a Dolby Digital surround in a widescreen presentation, Stop-Loss has a terrific a/v presentation. The film’s initial scenes in Iraq show off the film’s a/v, as the intense gunfights come through wonderfully. The transfer is top shelf as well, putting the MTV inspired score through wonderfully and providing an engaging visual presentation.

The Making of Stop-Loss follows Kim Pierce’s wanting to make a film about this generation’s war. With her little brother having enlisted after 9/11, and the events of the second Iraq war, Pierce consulted some anti-war activists and some soldiers to do some basic research for the film. Mixing Peirce’s anti-war screed with some interesting tidbits about the making of the film itself, it’s a mixed piece that really doesn’t tap into the film-making as much as it could’ve.

A Day in Boot Camp follows the training regime the principle members of the cast went through to make them appear to be professional soldiers. It’s interesting to hear the military advisers talk about how they wanted to be sure everyone looked and sounded like professional soldiers to the point where you can see how hard they want a bunch of actors to not embarrass themselves.

Deleted Scenes, complete with commentary from Peirce, are included as well. And it’s easy to see why they were cut from the film, as they don’t add anything back into the film that needed to be added.

Previews for American Teen, The Ruins, Star Trek, Iron Man and Shine a Light.

Many talented directors have made bad movies trying to wave their flag of protest too hard. Robert Redford, Paul Haggis, Brian De Palma, Gavin Hood and others have made box office bombs in the name of promoting their own agendas. Add Kim Peirce to that list. With minimally entertaining extras, unless one’s politics agree with this film then Stop-Loss is a recommendation to avoid.


Paramount presents Stop-Loss . Directed by Kim Peirce. Starring Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Channing Tatum, Abbie Cornish. Written by Kim Peirce and Mark Richard. Running time: 113 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: July 8, 2008. Available at

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