Nine years on from her multi-award-winning debut Boys Don't Cry, Kimberly Pierce joins the ranks of US filmmakers writing America's war on terror large on the cinema screen whilst the real soldiers are still away fighting. With this intimate portrait of one war hero's unwelcome invitation straight back to the front, Pierce shows again her deep level of commitment to her subject, crafting an emotionally intense film which conveys the human toll of this war on terror.
Pierce sets up Sgt Brandon King (a standout Ryan Phillippe) and his squad as an affable, macho crew, before leading them down a nerve-shredding alley shoot-out in Tikrit, hooking us into their fates as they return home to Texas as heroes. The nightmares, violence and panic that accompanies returning home from war is familiar, but it's when King gets stop-lossed (denied the right to leave the army and sent straight back to the front) that Pierce uncovers the real nightmare facing thousands of American troops.
"GROUNDED IN GREAT PERFORMANCES"
The film's second half becomes something of a road movie as King goes AWOL, initially rebuffing his orders ("Fuck the President!") then trying to decide whether the revisiting the warzone is actually that bad, considering the hellish mental aftermath of having been there once. Pierce's story loses some of its energy here but, grounded in great performances from Phillippe and Gordon-Levitt in particular, none of its humanity. Stop Loss takes some time out from the argument over the validity of the war to ask a question closer to home - whether the emotional battlefield America subjects its young soldiers to is actually worth it.
Stop-Loss is out in the UK on 25th April 2008.