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PARAMOUNT / MTV

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Kimberly Peirce
Cast:
Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Victor Rasuk, Terry Quay, Matthew Scott Wilcox, Timothy Olyphant
Writing Credits:
Mark Richard, Kimberly Peirce

Tagline:
When justice is blind, it knows no fear.

Synopsis:
Decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) makes a celebrated return to his small Texas hometown following his tour of duty. He tries to resume the life he left behind with the help and support of his family and his best friend, Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), who served with him in Iraq. Along with their other war buddies, Brandon and Steve try to make peace with civilian life. Then, against Brandon's will, the Army orders him back to duty in Iraq, which upends his world. The conflict tests everything he believes in: the bond of family, the loyalty of friendship, the limits of love and the value of honor.

Box Office:
Budget
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.555 million on 1291 screens.
Domestic Gross
$10.911 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 7/8/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Kimberly Peirce and Co-Writer Mark Richard
• “The Making of Stop-Loss” Featurette
• “A Day In Boot Camp” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Stop-Loss (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 11, 2008)

While the handful of movies that deal with the war in Iraq have concentrated on the fighting, 2008’s Stop-Loss mainly focuses on what happens to the soldiers when they return home. After a violent episode, Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) finishes his tour in Iraq and returns home to Texas for good.

Or so he thinks. When he goes to turn in his equipment, he discovers that he’s been “stop-lossed”, which means the Army will keep him for another tour in Iraq. To say the least, this doesn’t sit well with Brandon. He mouths off to his commanding officer and gets sent to the stockade. However, Brandon overpowers his escorts and goes AWOL.

Brandon immediately regrets this rash decision, but he decides not turn himself in to the authorities. Angry that the military didn’t honor their contract with him, Brandon tries to fight back. Senator Worrell (Josef Sommer) promised to assist him if necessary, so Brandon heads to DC to consult with him. The movie follows his attempts to stay out of Iraq as well as parallel stories with his troubled peers Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) and Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Most filmmakers take their big breaks and run with them. And then there’s Kimberly Peirce. She earned a lot of attention for 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry and then… bupkus. Based on a look at IMDB, Peirce directed an episode of The L Word a couple of years ago but she otherwise hasn’t operated behind the camera.

That shocks me. Maybe when I peruse the disc’s extras, she’ll explain why she vanished for so long, but right now, I simply feel perplexed at her choice to stay off the scene for almost a decade.

I wish I could claim that Stop-Loss represents a grand return for Peirce, but I can’t. While I wouldn’t call it a bad flick, I’m not sure it deserved an audience much larger than the one its $10 million gross represents. Stop-Loss boasts an interesting theme and has it moments, but it never fulfills its potential.

The main problem stems from its strident, one-sided tone. I empathize with the soldiers forced to endure one combat tour after another even when they’ve fulfilled their obligations, but the film doesn’t present a balanced view of things. Granted, it’s hard to find a positive side to events when good men are stuck in such an intolerable situation, but I still think the flick could’ve felt less monochromatic.

This creates problems because it turns Stop-Loss into a long political screed. It feels more like a rant against the war in Iraq than an actual movie with three-dimensional characters. While it calls attention to the plight of the stop-lossed soldiers, it doesn’t create a terribly interesting story.

And that’s a problem. We’re stuck with unilaterally messed-up characters who fail to provoke much more than basic interest in us. We’ve seen these kinds of traumatized soldiers many, many times in the past. Sure, it’s slightly novel to place them as Iraq veterans instead of Vietnam vets, but otherwise the character aspects of the flick feel predictable and stale.

Which leaves Stop-Loss as a flick that comes with a case of déjà vu. I appreciate its message and the fervor with which it tells it, but I can’t find much else about it to dig. Too much of the movie feels like an extended editorial and not much else.

By the way, am I the only one who thinks it creates an oddly comedic touch to have a character named “Sgt. Shriver”?


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Stop-Loss appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not too many issues developed in this satisfying transfer.

Only minor signs of softness appeared. A few wide shots seemed a tad undefined, but those were reasonably infrequent. The majority of the flick looked well-defined and accurate. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and only light edge enhancement was visible. Source flaws remained absent, as I noticed no specks, marks or other concerns.

Stop-Loss featured a subdued and stylized palette for the most part. The tones tended toward the brownish-tan side of the street, and we didn’t get a lot of color breadth. The hues were fine given their stylistic limitations. Black levels seemed deep, while shadow detail was appropriately thick much of the time. Ultimately, Stop-Loss provided a good visual experience.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Stop-Loss, it presented a sporadically involving experience. The soundfield came to life mainly during the action scenes. Those showed good breadth and activity, and they used the surrounds to solid effect. However, since most of the movie stayed with character drama, not too many of these opportunities materialized. Most of the flick stayed with decent atmosphere and not much else. Still, it filled in the spectrum to a satisfying degree.

Audio quality was good. Speech sounded natural and concise. Music was full and dynamic, while effects sounded rich and accurate. Bass response appeared deep and taut throughout the film. This became a perfectly acceptable soundtrack.

When we move to the extras, we begin with an audio commentary from director Kimberly Peirce and co-writer Mark Richard. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece – part of the time, at least. They start out together, but Richard quickly takes a powder and pops up infrequently after that.

The commentary looks at cast, performances and training, story and characters, cut and altered scenes, influences, sets and locations, camerawork, attempts at authenticity, music, and a few other production choices. As I noted, Peirce heavily dominates the chat, and she provides an effective introspective tone. She gives us a thoughtful examination of the film and adds to our understanding of it. It’s too bad Richard appears for so little of the track, as it moves more briskly with him there, but it remains a good commentary. I still want someone to discuss the “Sgt. Shriver” choice, though!

Two featurettes come next. The Making of Stop-Loss goes for 20 minutes, 57 seconds and features notes from Peirce, Richard, producer Gregory Goodman, military adviser Sgt. Major James Dever, and actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Victor Rasuk, Ryan Phillippe, and Channing Tatum. The show looks at camerawork and the movie’s visual style, research, influences for the film and attempts at accuracy, locations, cast and performances, and a few other production details.

Since Peirce already covered so much in her commentary, a bit of redundancy occurs here. However, we don’t find much repeated material, so expect plenty of fresh information. In addition, the other perspectives and behind the scenes footage adds value to the show. Like the commentary, “Making” becomes a serious and useful take on its subjects.

A Day In Boot Camp runs 10 minutes, two seconds and offers comments from Dever, Phillippe, Gordon-Levitt, Tatum and soldier Jose Lezano. We go to Texas to watch the actors’ military training and its impact on them. We get good footage from the session in this interesting feature.

11 Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 18 minutes, 33 seconds. These divide into two camps. We get character moments that would’ve been nice to have but weren’t essential, and we also find “shoe leather” bits that illustrate the logistics of Brandon’s journey. Nothing significant pops up in any of these. Those so inclined will find plenty of added beefcake, though.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Peirce. She provides some basic thoughts about the scenes as well as notes about why she cut them. She continues to offer good insights about the film.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Star Trek X, Iron Man, and Shine a Light. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for American Teen and The Ruins. No trailer for Stop-Loss appears on the DVD.

Stop-Loss wears its heart on its sleeve as it tells a rather pedantic, one-sided tale. The movie has potential but it becomes too simplistic and preachy to really succeed. The DVD offers very good picture along with pretty positive audio and supplements. I like the DVD, but the movie itself doesn’t do much for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.375 Stars Number of Votes: 16
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