|Genre(s): Drama / War|
|Paramount || R - 112 minutes - $34.99 || July 8, 2008|
|Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2008-07-10|
Writer(s): Mark Richard & Kimberly Peirce (written by)
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Timothy Olymphant
Theatrical Release Date: March 28, 2008
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Stop-Loss is the latest in the many recent films about the conflict in the Middle East. I use the word “conflict” because I think “war” is a term that does not necessarily apply to this combat in Iraq. It is a conflict that does not resemble any war before it with the exception of the Vietnam War. The boundaries are not clearly drawn as these American soldiers enlist in this unique battle.
In the film Stop-Loss, director Kimberly Peirce takes on the topic of these young soldiers who serve in Iraq and finally get to come home only to be ordered back into active duty. The stop-loss policy is “the involuntary extension of a service member's active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service date.” Basically, these men and women are told their service is complete only to have their service involuntarily extended.
In the film, Brandon (Ryan Phillippe) returns home from his service in Iraq along with his other friends and fellow soldiers Steve (Channing Tatum) and Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Just as Brandon begins to settle back into his old life, he is stop-lossed and forced back into going to Iraq. Brandon feels as though he has served his country already and does not want to go back. As a result, Brandon goes AWOL and travels across the country from Texas to Washington D.C. to meet a Senator and make a case for his unfair treatment. The film essentially becomes a road film as the trip dominates most of the film. As a result, the film becomes more of a drama than a war film. The film mostly consists of young actors mixed in with real soldiers. The performances are fairly good all around. Ryan Phillippe does a solid job carrying the film along with newcomer Abbie Cornish. Channing Tatum tries his best to be Robert De Niro but instead comes off more like Josh Hartnett.
Unfortunately, the film never really picks up any steam or has any real urgency. The story itself is an interesting topic to deal with. For the most part, war films deal with the actual war while a small handful deal with the journey back home and life after the war. In Stop-Loss, we see the soldiers during the war, their life when they get back from the war and then having to deal with returning to serve. I think the film would have been much more interesting if Peirce would have dealt with the life of one soldier and not with the sub-plots of Tommy and Steve so much. As a result, the film’s pacing is slow as Peirce must go back and forth between several sub-plots. As a result, we get a poor man’s version of The Deer Hunter mixed in with some aspects of the first Rambo film, First Blood.
The first extra is a commentary by director Kimberly Peirce and co-writer Mark Richard. The commentary is fairly interesting for the most part as they both cover a wide range of topics from the genesis of the project to the casting, cinematography and story structure. They both seem to run out of steam and interesting things to say about half way through the film.
The Making of Stop-Loss is a 21 minute behind the scenes look at the genesis of the film. It’s a fairly standard look at how the project got started and where the idea came from. Director Kimberly Peirce and writer Mark Richard discuss how they wanted to make a film from strictly the soldiers’ point of view. Casting, location shooting as well as Peirce’s directing style are all covered in this extra.
A Day in Boot Camp is a 10 minute look at the actors engaging in different exercises to get them prepared for their roles. It seems like this extra automatically is included in any Hollywood film about a war. It’s pretty standard actor talk and nothing we haven’t really seen ten times before.
The DVD also includes 11 Deleted Scenes that run about 18 minutes total. Each scene comes with a commentary from Kimberly Peirce as she discusses why a particular scene was cut. She is actually quite honest and discusses how deleting an unnecessary scene in essential to making a good film and progressing a story. Most of the scenes that are cut involve Brandon and Michelle on the road. Many of the scenes are good but had to be cut for story purposes.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
The film is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for 16:9 TV’s. The picture quality is good enough for the most part but I did notice some grain here and there. Though this could do with the fact that Peirce wanted parts of the film to have a “home video” feel to it because she used actual home videos of soldiers as inspiration for the film. If you are someone who looks for a perfect picture quality, be aware that this film does interchange between very good quality to average.
The audio for the DVD is available in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track with options for the same track in Spanish and French. The film is mostly dialogue with the exception of the war scenes in the beginning. Nonetheless, the audio transfer is solid throughout the film.
In the end, Stop-Loss doesn’t really bring anything new to the war film genre. That being said, the film is worth checking out because most people are not even aware of the issue of stop-loss. Unfortunately, the film itself lacks focus as the film shifts between unneeded sub plots. The DVD package is solid as the deleted scenes and commentary are worth checking out. The film is definitely worth a rental if one is interested in the subject matter of the conflict in Iraq or the unfair treatment of soldiers.