DVD Review: Stop-Loss

The most remarkable thing about Stop-Loss, director and co-writer (working with Mark Richard) Kimberly Peirce’s first film since 1999’s Oscar-winning Boys Don’t Cry, is that it isn’t anti-war. It is, in fact, very pro-soldier, looking at the fighting men and women our country sends over to the Middle East with a teary-eyed reverence that’s difficult to resist. These are our sons and daughters, our brother and sisters. These are our friends. These are our neighbors. These are the people we see each day of our lives.

I liked this movie back when it was released in theaters at the end of March. I love it now. These are people audiences can relate to and understand, their commitment to their country and to one another as strong and as vital as their own. The war isn’t the issue here, the people are, and anyone who has been affected by this conflict can’t help but be moved by the gross indignity of the horrific military policy at the story’s center.

The film concerns friends and Iraq War veterans Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) and Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum). These two have fought for their country, and along with fellow veteran Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) now that their tour of duty is over all they want to do is settle down in their small Texas hometown and pursue peaceful lives as civilians.

The Army has other ideas about that, however, King a victim of Stop-Loss, the government choosing to renege on its promise to release him from service and instead ship him and his buddies back to Iraq for another tour. This tests everything the decorated soldier believes in, the strains on his friendships and the pressure on his family nothing compared to the newfound fury he suddenly feels towards the country he’s put everything on the line for.

Initially, I had problems with some of the multi-layered storytelling Peirce and Richard engaged in. I felt there were far too many tangents precipitously dangling without resolution and not enough time to fully flesh them out, the talented Gordon-Levitt the most hung out to dry by being saddled with a character too one-dimensional to completely care for.

I was wrong with those assessments. After seeing the film a second time in the theater I realized there was a decided method to the filmmaker’s madness, and now after watching it again on DVD I’m even more satisfied that both writers new exactly what it was they were trying to do. The film has The Best Years of Our Lives aspirations, much of it popping off the screen with an electric sizzle that’s both primal and alive.

It’s still not quite 100-percent perfect. If the edges could have been a little sharper and the focus a bit more crisp this could have been one for the ages, and along with classics like Platoon, Das Boot and Battleground it could very well have defined a catastrophic worldwide event for many generations to come. But Peirce has a dynamic eye and a deft had and she brings these soldiers’ tales to life in ways we’ve never seen before, her use of creatively shot battlefield footage bringing a grunts-eye perspective to the warfare that’s shockingly unique.

Paramount’s DVD release of Stop-Loss is adequate, nothing more. Both Peirce and Richard deliver a solid audio commentary, the two actually engaging in a debate at one point about the pros and cons of the Iraq War, the director also waxing eloquently on her younger brother’s decision to sign up for service after the events of 9/11. There are also a couple of moderately interesting featurettes and a collection of deleted scenes, many of which are actually quite good should have been considered for inclusion in the finished project.

As for the film, it is pretty darn potent and worthwhile to say the least. Phillippe commands the screen, while pretty-boy Tatum proves he’s more than just another pair of rippling biceps. The central story is undeniably effective, the ultimate twists and turns it takes as excruciatingly emotional as you could ever hope for them to be. Stop-Loss isn’t going to be the ultimate cinematic statement on this war – that is still to come, probably sometime in the next decade – but it is still a strong aria to the soldiers who are fighting it, mostly without any sort of honor or recognition. Do yourself a favor and see it today.

Stay up to date with everything Home Video related from reviews, release dates and newly announced DVDs and Blu-ray Discs in the RopeofSilicon Home Video Central.


Marvel and DC