What do you get when you marry MTV productions with a brilliant director? What do you get when you try to convey a serious subject to the teeny bopper crowd? Well, you get Stop-Loss.
Young people are going to hate me for this comment, but it's true. Not all of course, but many young people are not interested in films about the horrors of the Iraq war or about our government's disrespect and disregard for truth and honor. No, most young people are too busy playing on Facebook, MySpace, and/or trying to get laid. When they do go to the theater, they find raunchy sex comedies such as Superbad and horror porn such as Hostel and Saw far more appealing. So, the most fatal flaw for Stop-Loss is the filmmakers' attempt to cater the message to a group of people who just don't give a shit. The only way they are going to give a shit is if we institute a draft. A crappy, beat-'em-over-the-head flick is certainly not going to truly drive the message home. The only thing it was able to drive was me...away from the theater.
I will admit that Stop-Loss has good intentions. Everyone should know what our government is doing, and that they literally use and abuse those who were brave and generous enough to fight for them in the first place. However, the message got lost the way waffles get lost when a toddler drowns them in syrup.
No where will one find a more important movie about what war does to men than In the Valley of Elah. That film handled the subject of the horrors of war making monsters of men deftly, beautifully, and probably with the most important word, subtlety. Stop-Loss, unfortunately, does not have the capacity to own any of those key terms. It merely hammers us incessantly with message.
Look, I get it. No one is as baffled (still to this day) that George W. Bush is our president. God, that hurt to write. "President" and "W" in the same sentence; I will feel that for hours. I hate war as much as the next war hater. And I also feel as much animosity for our government for forcing our nation's bravest back into a war zone that they should never have been in the first time, let alone a second time. However, the frenzied, over-the-top manner in which director Kimberley Peirce exploits our contempt and her soldiers' brooding is nauseating.
None of these soldiers look like soldiers. They look like celebrities in camouflage. They look like poster children for the MTV crowd. Oh, look at that hunky Ryan Phillippe emote. Oh, baby, watch Channing Tatum work those abs as he looks for someone to bruise. Again, tailoring the message to teeny boppers shot this movie in the foot.
Stop-Loss wears all its emotions on its sleeves. There are no layers to dig into; no complexity to decipher. This movie is a 113 minutes barrage of bad manners. Everyone we meet is torn about the war, everyone we meet is harmed by the war, and everyone we meet has no brain cells about how to go about fixing the problem. I get it. This war sucks. And as Phillippe barks in the film, "Fuck him (our President)," but the film does not try tackle its subject matter with heft or with any sort of real moral conflict.
As for me, I am at a loss... why did Kimberly Peirce wait 8 years to follow up her brilliant and important Boys Don't Cry with this garbage? How come we finally get a brilliant female director with her take of war on the screen, and it looks like an adolescent male's vision? With the exception of surprisingly no female flesh exposed, Stop-Loss looks and feels exactly as it would as if it had been directed by a man.
Ok, time for me to stop... still at a loss.