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Stop-Loss a.k.a. “Stop Loss”

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for graphic violence and pervasive language

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
War, Drama
1 hr. 53 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 28, 2008 (wide—1,200 theaters)
Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Pictures

What is the significance of Iraq in the Bible? Answer

War in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer


Fear, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer

Depressed woman. Photo copyrighted.
Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer

What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer


How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer

Pain and Suffering

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn't this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Featuring: Ryan Phillippe
Flags of Our Fathers,” “Cruel Intentions,” “Breach

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Brick,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “The Lookout

Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Victor Rasuk, Terry Quay, Matthew Scott Wilcox, Timothy Olyphant, Josef Sommer, Linda Emond, Ciarán Hinds, Mamie Gummer, Abbie Cornish, See all »
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Producer: Pamela Abdy, Reid Carolin, Gregory Goodman, Kimberly Peirce, Mark Roybal, Scott Rudin, Alli Shearmur
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

The stop-loss policy has often been called the “backdoor draft.” It’s a policy that allows any branch of the military to involuntarily extend the time of any of its enlisted members. Used on thousands of troops since 9/11, soldiers who are due to go home could get reassigned another tour of duty without their consent. Screenwriter Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) took this controversial policy and created a film that depicts a raw, grim glimpse into the lives of three returning soldiers.

After touring Iraq, Staff Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Philippe) returns home to Texas. He plans to begin a new life after his military release. His childhood friend Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) also plans to leave the army and marry his sweetheart, Michelle (Abbie Cornish). Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) is the only one of the trio who plans to continue serving in the army. Upon their return, they are greeted as heroes and welcomed with a town parade.

The honeymoon of homecoming and relief quickly vanish with the setting sun. The night brings out their war-driven nightmares. To escape, the friends become intoxicated. However, the following days brings more pain and trouble. From domestic abuse to a DUI, the soldiers are tormented. Among the strongest, Brandon is an anchor for his friends. However, his test comes when he becomes stop-lossed on the day of his supposed release. Determined to never return to Iraq, Brandon decides to fight his stop-loss assignment. Becoming a fugitive, Brandon goes AWOL. Michelle, Steven’s fiancée volunteers to take him half way across the country to avoid being sent overseas.

Before I go into the review, I want to give all potential viewers a fair warning: the previews are very misleading. This movie is not a romance. There is never a kindling romance between Michelle and Staff Sgt. Brandon King. While Michelle does accompany Brandon on his quest, the relationship problems are always between Steve and Michelle.

In simple terms, this is an anti-war movie, trying its best to show the devastating toll war can have on veteran soldiers and their families. The audience sees the war through the eyes of the soldiers. We see the battles that continue to rage within their minds and lives. The battles that are often unspoken, hushed, and continuing long after all the celebrations and congratulations ebb away.

The movie is very convincing in its portrayal. The cast is superb and give excellent performances. Every character brought power to the screen. However, I have to admit that Ryan Phillippe’s performance is extraordinary. His face would often convey the emotions and realism his lines lacked.

Moral Offense

Since the movie strives to show how disturbing and brutal the Iraqi War is, there are some gruesome war scenes. Bullets are shown going through a soldier’s head and neck. A bomb victim is shown with his flesh all burnt. While the troops invaded a civilian building trying to find the terrorists, the civilians are shown after a bomb detonated. Men, women, and even children are shown to be victims. The camera would often linger to show the true, brutal impact the killings had on the soldier’s psyche. While the scenes were wrenching, I do not believe they were overbearing or inaccurate.

However, the abundance of cursing I did find offensive. The characters’ dialogues swam in profanity. I counted over 90 uses, including 55 ‘f’ words, and at least 10 GDs.

The consumption of alcohol is a constant in the film. Alcohol is considered one of the only ways to escape the pain. There are several drunken, emotional scenes. Shriver becomes so intoxicated he punches his fiancée and then digs himself a trench. He wakes up in only his underwear in his friend’s trunk. He later confessed to Brandon he didn’t remember hitting his fiancée.

The sexual content in the film is relatively moderate. In one scene, Shriver shows a comrade a picture of his girlfriend. She then begins to undress. He quickly hides the picture, but the audience can see the girlfriend is in her bra. There is one mention of a solider not knowing the age of a girl with whom he slept. However, I do not recall anything else that was overtly offensive.

The soldiers who come back from Iraq are paraded around, awarded and praised. However, within the confines of their minds, they feel hopelessly lost in their despair and pain. They see hallucinations, their relationships fail, and even their own friendships suffer from the after-effects of the devastating war.

The most troubled solider is Tommy Burgess. While Brandon is on the run, Steven calls him and tells him to return because he’s the only one Tommy will listen to. In one of the homemade videos while stationed in Iraq, it shows Tommy getting baptized by a fallen Christian soldier. While spiraling into blacker depths of despair, Tommy never calls out to Jesus whom he had apparently accepted as his Savior. Scripture talks about what to do whenever we, as God’s children, are anxious in Philippians 4:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Bottom Line

While this movie was well-acted and emotionally impacting, I do not recommend it. The movie does succeed in showing how devastating the Iraq War has been on our fellow soldiers. However, I do not feel it is a completely accurate portrayal. I have known quite a few soldiers who are Christian who have recently returned from Iraqi duty. While they have trouble readjusting, they did not automatically resort to suicide or massive consumption alcohol. to get rid of their terror. Instead, they turned to Jesus Christ for their restored peace. The movie is depressing and utterly hopeless. It sadly and falsely shows that there is no hope for soldiers or life in general. However, we, Christians, know that Jesus is our hope, our salvation, and our peace.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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