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PCR #418 (Vol. 9, No. 13) This edition is for the week of March 24--30, 2008.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"Stop-Loss"  by Mike Smith
DVD Review: "The Baby"  by ED Tucker
Happy Birthday, PCR....Happy Birthday, Iraq War....The Wolfman  by Matt Drinnenberg
The Right Price At What Cost .... Golden Slumbers .... Also Passing .... .... .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1967 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
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Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Channing Tatum and Abbie Cornish
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 52 mins

"In the event of war, my enlistment in the Armed Forces continues until six (6) months after the war ends, unless the enlistment is ended sooner by the President of the United States.”

This sentence is included in every contract signed by prospective soldiers. It was there when I joined the Army in 1979 and it’s there today. Did I even notice it when I signed up with Uncle Sam? Probably not. Besides, there wasn’t a war on then. There is today and this little sentence is being referred to often. The military calls it “stop-loss,” and it’s the basis for a powerful film that looks at the very human tragedies of those who fight for what they believe in.

In Tikrit, Iraq, SSG Brandon King (Phillippe) and his squad are manning a local checkpoint. They stop anything that comes towards them, search it and send it on its way. A fast-approaching taxi catches the squad’s attention. Good thing since, as it approaches the soldiers, the passengers in the taxi open fire. Following procedure, King leads his men in pursuit of the shooters, ending up in an alley in the middle of town. Suddenly, the squad is attacked from surrounding rooftops, with many men killed or wounded. King searches for his best friend, Steve (Tatum), who has gone into a nearby house. Wounded, Steve and King manage to escape the ambush and soon find themselves back in their Texas hometown, honored as heroes at a local parade. Both men are happy to be home and looking forward to the end of the weekend, when their enlistment is over and they can return to the civilian world. While finishing his out-processing, King is informed that he has been given orders sending him back to Iraq. Protesting that his time is done, King is read the above sentence. King tries to reason his way out, claiming that since the President announced some time ago that the war is over there is really no reason to retain him. Unfortunately, the Army has different ideas and soon King finds himself being reported AWOL. While King focuses on the problem at hand, other members of the squad discover that war is not just something you can turn off.

In 1999, director Peirce released “Boys Don’t Cry,” a film that told the true story of Teena Brandon, a girl living life disguised as a man. The film earned Hilary Swank the Academy Award for Best Actress. Surprisingly, it’s taken almost a decade for Peirce to direct her sophomore effort. In the same time, director Michael Bay has brought us “Pearl Harbor,” “Bad Boys II,” “The Island” and “Transformers,” referred to by some as “10 hours and 10 minutes the viewer will never get back.” But I digress. With “Stop-Loss,” Peirce and co-writer Mark Richard have managed to tell an important story without making too strong of a political message. “War is hell,” General William T. Sherman once said. It was true when he said it 145 years ago and it’s true now. And that hell is not always confined to the battlefield. The young cast is outstanding, led by Phillippe. After recent roles in “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Breach,” Phillippe is emerging as one of the best actors of his generation. He is matched by the aforementioned Tatum, Gordon-Levitt and Cornish, who shines as Michelle, Steve’s fianceé. Visually, the film captures the bright sunshine of both Iraq and southern Texas, giving each location its own special look. Only the films’ “safe” ending (or at least that’s what I call it) feels forced, a feeling that costs the movie half of a rating star.

A powerful film that doesn’t pull punches, “Stop-Loss” is the first important film of 2008. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give it

This week's movie review of "Stop-Loss" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2008, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.