Stop-Loss (15)

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The Independent Culture

Hollywood's own approach to the troubles in the Middle East is exemplified by Stop-Loss, a well-intentioned drama which, like In The Valley Of Elah, sees the killing of Iraqi civilians in terms of how it affects the Americans who do the killing. Its heroes are Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum, three brooding, square-jawed hunks who return from Iraq to a military base in Texas. Phillippe finds that he's been "stop-lossed", which means that even though he's completed his contracted service, he's being forced back to the war zone for another tour of duty. His plan to escape this "back-door draft" is to drive to Washington with Tatum's girlfriend, Abbie Cornish, and appeal to a friendly senator for clemency.

As the story ticks off alcoholism, depression, dismemberment and death, it feels as if Kimberly Peirce, the writer-director, is manipulating her characters as callously as the army is, so that each one embodies a particular issue. It might have been better if she'd written a newspaper editorial rather than making a film.

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