Stop-Loss 

As our wars in the Middle East seemingly have no end, it's expected that films with modern military themes will become prevalent. The term "stop-loss" may not mean much to civilians, but as a former military member affected by it, I assure you it's a scary thought to be locked into service beyond one's contract.

Staff Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillipe) returns to Texas after his latest tour in Iraq believing his military service is complete, but on the day of his separation, the base freezes his exit. Feeling slighted, King goes AWOL while the rest of his squad begins to implode from post traumatic stress.

Co-writer/director Kimberly Peirce, who helmed 1999's Boys Don't Cry, predictably captures a lot of interesting human interaction, but it's far less alternative than her prior film. Her portrayal of the PTSD the soldiers experience is both interesting and difficult to watch, if not slightly over-dramatized. The film also mixes its standard scenes with home-video-style footage from the soldiers' time overseas. Oddly, the popular music played during these cut-ins makes them feel a lot like MTV.

Though the acting and story are both decent, there's something intangible missing from the film that makes it less likeable than it could be. And though Phillipe claims the film's theme is not antiwar, it could easily go either way. Regardless, it does paint a rather grim picture of what returning soldiers may have to look forward to if and when they're able to escape the war.

This video courtesy of Hollywood Video, 590 Broadway Ave., 208-342-6117.

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