Stop-Loss (2008)

(In theaters, April 2008) There’s an annoying lack of focus and commitment to this film that ultimately doom it to irrelevance. As an exploration of the impact of the Iraq invasion on ordinary lower-class America, it’s an intriguing film. It even gets provocative as it portrays a good young man reaching for exile rather than being pressed back in service under “stop-loss” directives. It gets even more interesting as the war claims more victims at home, as the young returning soldiers are unable to cope with peacetime and self-destruct in various ways. But the loose and scattered feel of the film, especially as it re-invents itself as a botched road movie, constantly diffuse the impact of a story that should have been much stronger. The slow pacing doesn’t help, and the last-minute embrace of traditional American values (like, oh, doing one’s part for family pride and business imperialism) feels like a step back from what could have been a far stronger conclusion. If you’re going to toy with the idea of sedition, do it properly. Otherwise, well, you pretty much deserve the wars in which you get to die.

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