Director Kimberly Peirce (BOYS DON'T CRY) tackles another controversial topic with STOP-LOSS, the story of a U.S. soldier forced back into battle. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) has just returned to Texas after a harrowing final tour in Iraq. He's accompanied by the remaining men from his unit, all of whom are more than a little shell-shocked. Welcomed home as a hero, Brandon is awarded a Purple Heart by a visiting state senator. But the homecoming quickly turns sour, as each of the soldiers struggles to assimilate back into society. Tommy (Joseph Gordon Levitt) can't lay off the booze, and Steve (Channing Tatum) roughs up his fiancée. Brandon is eager to put the war behind him, but that dream quickly fizzles when he learns that he has been "stop-lossed," or ordered back for another, involuntary tour of duty. Stunned by the news, he goes AWOL and forms a plan to get help from the senator who so recently honored him. He hits the road for D.C., all the while trying to cope with PTSD and battle flashbacks. Torn between his fierce patriotism and what he believes to be outright betrayal by the U.S. Army, he doesn't know where to turn or what to do. He is ultimately faced with the harshest of choices: Iraq, or a life in exile.
There are now dozens of films that grapple with the war in Iraq, but STOP-LOSS is unique in its attempt to reach out to a younger audience. Produced by MTV, the film features a striking young cast and a thumping hip-hop soundtrack. There are many commendable performances, most notably from Phillippe and Levitt. Despite the occasional melodrama of some of the scenes, Peirce pulls no punches, and really hammers home the tragic exploitation of American troops.