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War film themes ripped from today’s headlines engage audiences

The life of an American soldier has been depicted countless times in the cinema world. Far too often, the character development of a soldier is sacrificed for a dramatic action sequence or a political standpoint. What if a movie were to do the opposite? What if a movie could take all the ideas of a conventional approach to a political agenda out of a film and replace it with a true-to-life depiction of honest and genuine characters?

The film in question is called “Stop-Loss.” Originally intended to be a documentary, the film focuses not only on the traumatic mental effects that plague returning war heroes, but also a fine print clause in a soldier’s contract that enables re-deployment at the government’s demand. The action of that clause is referred to as being stop-lossed. In the film, Ryan Phillippe portrays a returning war veteran who, along with his best friend and fellow soldier (Channing Tatum), is being stop-lossed. Even through he and his friend disagree, Lt. Brandon King (Phillippe) takes it upon himself to escape what he believes is an unfair contract negotiation. It is his journey from Texas to New York that forces him to reanalyze the decisions he’s made and the consequences of his actions.

Had the original idea of a documentary film been taken on this subject, the film would be seen as nothing more than a political agenda film with an anti-war sentiment. Instead, powerful performances from the least likely of casts emotionally captures an audience from beginning to end. In this case, it is the human side of the argument that sticks so well with a movie-going audience. Aside from Phillippe’s performance, there’s also a gem inside of fellow soldier, Tommy, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Here, we see a character who is grieving and searching for an accepting family that he believes is in his soldier unit. No amount of screen time could have been given to fully understand Levitt’s powerful performance that acts as an integral part of the film.

Hidden deep inside “Stop-Loss” is a political film oozing to come out. It’s as much of an anti-war film as it is a pro-troops film. Director Kimberly Peirce has crafted a worthy and honest commentary on a typically media-consumed topic. Instead of getting an earful of a political argument, Peirce lets her characters speak for a purpose that hits home harder than a biased newsreel. How beautiful it is that we connect so easily and emotionally to their stories.

Three and a half stars out of four

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