Friday, May 23, 2008


"I ain't scared, I'm pissed off!"

Written by: Mark Richard & Kimberley Peirce

Directed by: Kimberley Peirce

Starring: Ryan Phillipe, Abby Cornish, Channing Tatum

My rating: 5/10

The stop-loss policy is a clause in every soldier's military contract that in times of war, they may be re-drafted immediately after their tour of duty has been served.

In the case of this film's hero Brandon, he is stop-lossed immediately after returning home from a horrific tour in Iraq. He and his men return home as heroes (the ones who survived) and just as he is revelling in his local celebrity status, he is informed that he must ship back out to Iraq, despite having served his tour of duty. Brandon refuses on principle and goes on the run to try avoid his fate. From home, he is faced with both support and also accusations of being a traitor. As his army buddies fall to pieces from post-traumatic stress, Brandon must decide whether to keep running forever, or to return to Iraq.

This is an emotional,two-sided debate about the ethical correctness of the stop-loss system. It's pretty much against the system but it certainly allows room for argument as many points are raised in favour of stop-lossing and why it is a necessary evil. There is a sense in this film that had it not been made by MTV Films, it would have stood a chance at being taken seriously. Too many hot, beefy men. Too many partying scenes. I got the sense that it was really, seriously trying way too hard to appeal to the young, hip generation. The poster for example looks like a gender-reversed Maxin spread. It's hard to pinpoint what it is exactly that gave this film its MTV feel, but it desperately needed a subtler tone, something along the lines of last years In the Valley of Elah.

The tragic events in the film, such as young arrogant Tommy's (Joseph Gordon Levitt, not to be confused with his teenage alien Tommy from 3rd Rock) descent into darkness and the general malaise of Brandon's friends and family are well-acted and overall the performances here are really, really strong. It's a shame that the overall tone of the film cheapens it so much because otherwise it could have been really interesting with a lot to say.

I guess it isn't the worst way to spend two hours of your life, but really there are so many other, better things you could be watching.

- Charlene Lydon 23/05/2008

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