“Ryan Phillippe. Channing Tatum. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Do I need any more reason to wanna see this movie? I’d missed it when it initially came out (those names didn’t mean as much to me eight years ago), but a couple years back when this movie returned to my radar, I spent some time tracking it down because I just had to see these boys together. And yeah, for fans of any of them, it’s certainly worth a watch.
Stop-Loss is a term that means that someone in the military who is expecting release, is instead called back to serve an additional amount of time. It’s a clause in their contracts that’s executed in wartime to keep a sufficient amount of personnel available. In the movie, we follow a group of friends who have just returned from serving in Iraq. They are each having their own difficulties in adjusting to civilian life and obstacles they need to overcome.
In the A storyline, Phillippe is a soldier who has been stop-lossed. Having served his time and not wanting to have to go back for another tour, we follow him as he considers the various extreme (and unpleasant) options before him. He’s a soldier who is done fighting, and no longer believes in the fight that is continuing.
His buddies, on the other hand, have different reactions. Tatum is a soldier through and through, who is having trouble letting go of the fight. He puts his commitment to serving his country above all else, including his longtime fiance left behind in their small hometown. JGL is facing depression, PTSD, and other mental issues that often plague our servicemen when they’ve left the battlefield. His wife is afraid of him and he can’t find a place for himself in the town he called home.
I like that we have these three distinct but entwined reactions. I wish we spent some more time on the B and C story intead of focusing on the A, though. Unfortunately, the film sort of lays it on thick, hitting you over the head with its message of how we need to support our returned troops. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a message I very much agree with. I just think it would have been more effective if it had a gentler, more subtle approach. Let the characters speak for themselves through their actions and don’t spell everything out in detail. Still, it’s a very moving film. Maybe not quite up to par with American Sniper (which deals with issues similar to our secondary guys), but it does have an important statement to make.”