(Note: We're re-posting our Stop-Loss review from SXSW to coincide with the film's theatrical release this weekend.)
It's been almost nine years since Kimberly Peirce's breakout film Boys Don't Cry, so expectations for her new project were bound to run high. Alas, she doesn't do herself any favors with the self-serious, emotionally hollow Stop-Loss. Why would someone who's so selective about the films she makes choose something so uninspired?
The title refers to the U.S. Army's policy of renewing soldiers' enlistments against their wishes, a necessary step when new recruits are in short supply and there's a war going on. Technically, the war in Iraq ended years ago, but this hasn't stopped the military from hanging on to thousands of soldiers who were supposed to have gone home when their time was up.
Stop-Loss is a fictional story about a real crisis, written by Peirce and Mark Richard and starring Ryan Phillippe as the soldier who gets stop-lossed. His name is Brandon King, and he has just returned to his hometown of Brazos, Texas, after a firefight in Tikrit that left some of his men dead or wounded. Brandon is a model soldier and staff sergeant, even to the point that his saintliness strains credulity, but he snaps when he learns he's being sent back. He tells his commanding officer (Timothy Olyphant) that he refuses to go, then flees the Army base.