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Stop-Loss

Yet another misfire in recent spate of Iraq war-related films

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I wanted to root for a film designed to hep the MTV crowd to the mental and physical anguish and bureaucratic shitstorms faced by some of their contemporaries, who are now veterans of the ongoing Iraq war. But director Kimberley Pierce (Boys Don't Cry) can't marry her obvious good intentions to show the full panoply of Iraq-vet woes with effective storytelling. So the tale of a decent guy and returned vet (Ryan Phillippe), who embarks on a broody road trip to (sort of) escape being returned to combat via stop-loss, piles on every cliché and TV-movie plot twist. It's a shame, because there are glimpses of a better film in here: the mostly understated acting, the nervy house-to-house combat scene that opens the film, and the sense of futility barely concealed by patriotic bunting that runs throughout. It'd be a fine thing to have an accessible film about the Iraq war and its human costs that delivered an emotional punch, but this isn't it. (AH) [capsule review]

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