“Stop Loss” – Susan Granger reviews

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While Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama devise exit strategies and Republican John McCain speculates that we’ll be in Iraq for the next 100 years, filmmaker Kimberley Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) angrily delves into what’s happening to troops currently serving their country in the Middle East.

Specifically, the government’s Stop-Loss Policy, which authorizes the retention of soldiers in the service beyond their expected term, also known as a “Back Door Draft.”

Staff Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) has honorably completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and is recovering in Brazos, his small Texas hometown, when he’s informed that the Army plans to send him back – indefinitely. While he’s as patriotic as the next guy, that’s just not right!

Meanwhile, his buddy, Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), is so emotionally devastated that – his first night home – he gets drunk and digs a foxhole in the front yard from which he howls, much to the distress of his fiancée (Abbie Cornish). And Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has become a stereotypically twitchy, screwed-up psycho veteran.

So King impetuously goes AWOL, becoming a fugitive in the country he fought to protect.

Problem is: “Stop-Loss” isn’t really about the use of that legal loophole. Instead, it’s about soldiers’ post-traumatic stress upon returning home from war, a subject covered far more effectively by Paul Haggis in “In the Valley of Elah,” for which Tommy Lee Jones received a well-deserved Oscar nomination.

The contrived characters and cinematography, especially the Tikrit combat sequences, seem all too familiar and, since Paramount’s partner is MTV, the heavy metal/alt-pop/southern rock soundtrack can occasionally be overwhelming. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Stop-Loss” is grim, heart-wrenching 5, measuring the shameful human cost of the continuing escalation of the war.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.