Apr 2008 21

Kimberly Peirce’s latest starts off with an exceptional bang, but quickly makes a turn for the worse and devolves into a meandering road film that fails to captivate us nor really care about the fate of these characters.
The film starts in Iraq where we get a quick credits sequence that effectively captures the life of these soldiers over there through pictures, hand held camera work, and production footage that is done effectively well then throws us quickly into the mess of action that can take place in the alleys and streets of Iraq. The squad in pursuit is lead by Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) who on there last day of their tour has a couple of his men killed in an ambush in an alley way. The action is intense and does a great job at capturing the shit storm that battle can turn into in a hurry in Iraq. Though, the film quickly transitions back to the states and meat of the movie begins to kick in. The boys are heralded as home town heroes as they return to their girlfriends, wives, and families, with Brandon and best friend Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) ready to settle down and end their service in the army. This is where the wheels coming flying off.
In the first night of their weekend of R&R the two fore mentioned best friends and the third male lead, Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) manage to beat their fiancée, incur a post traumatic stress breakdown digging a sleeping trench in their front yard, get piss drunk, get in a fight with civilians over nothing, and have their wife end the marriage and throw him out of the house; in one night! What the fuck?! The movie’s plausibility and complete disrespect for time is unavoidable. There is no way all of this happens in less than 12 hours, no way, it’s ludicrous for me as a viewer to believe it.
Brandon then discovers he has been stop-lost, being forced to stay in service to avoid a decrease in troops, and he goes on the run with Steve’s fiancée, Michelle (Abbie Cornish), as he tries to get to DC to enlist the assistance of a Senator that offered a helping hand at the big parade ceremony the day before. I won’t spoil the film any further for those interested, but the movie continues to have no concept of time and throws these characters threw an unbelievable amount of craziness over the course of only a few days, it just doesn’t make any logical sense.
The actors do an alright job here, but no one does anything amazing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the stand out, as he should be, though Tommy is an under utilized character that only serves as an emotional plot device throughout. I take that back, Gordon-Levitt gets one upped by Victor Rasuk who plays an injured comrade, and his scene is the most touching and effective of any scene in the film. Phillippe does a fairly good job as well though, Tatum doesn’t seem like a soldier at all, and not a good sign for the G.I. Joe movie for which he is the lead and Cornish is really kind of all over the place.
The movie is also supposed to be a message that Stop-Loss is wrong and we should try and stop it, which I agree with, but this meandering mess didn’t convince me of that. I could have simply read a simple paragraph report on the issue and would have disagreed, but if this gets the word out to more people, great, but it is a mess of a film that I can’t recommend unless you were really interested before hand.


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