Monday, March 31, 2008

Capsule Review: Stop-Loss

Movie: Stop-Loss

Director/Studio: Kimberly Pierce / Paramount

10 Word Review: Well intentioned movie spreads itself thin; speaks a lotta truth.

Best Thing About It: Even with the country having finally shifted to firm opposition of the war, its position on the troops is as supportive as it ever has been, so finding an Iraq movie that's sympathetic to their situation isn't a challenge. But Kimberly Pierce may have made the first of these films that feels truly empathetic, that's dug itself a hole right next to these soldiers and puts their faces, their wounds, and their fears in front of our faces and doesn't let us look away. There is a strong heart to this film and it is constantly breaking.

Worst Thing About It: The film's reach ultimately exceeds its grasp, particularly during a middle stretch which, at times, feels like Ryan Phillippe's character is taking a tour of the major talking points of the war "issue." It's not fatal to the film, but it does lend an air of "well-intentioned lecture" to certain parts. It's tough to imagine that any one movie can touch on everything that this was has done to the country and its citizens (not to mention, obviously, the Iraqis); the total cost has spread itself wide, across the breadth of this nation and beyond, and its seeped into every crack and corner. You'd need to cast and impossibly wide net to capture that all in one film, and this one would have been better served by a tighter focus.

Best Performance: The leads all acquit themselves fairly well. Ryan Phillippe has become an actor I very much enjoy even if he's not perfect here. Channing Tatum actually seems to inhabit his role more naturally (he's given a lot less to do, of course), and if Abbie Cornish had somehow been allowed to shed a Texas accent that she was no match for, I'd have been raving about her because she's awfully good. But best-in-show honors go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who gets the least screen time of the four but manages to create the film's most impactful character. There's no longer a doubt in my mind that he's one of the brightest lights in his generation.

Oscar Prospects: Nil after that negligible box office showing. Which, okay, time to talk about that. Once again, an Iraq movie opens and no one shows up to see it. This one managed good reviews, a hefty ad budget, sexy co-stars, snob appeal, redneck appeal, mainstream am I finally ready to shut up and admit that America don't care for movies about the war? I suppose. It certainly doesn't speak well of a population getting ready to choose its next president, though, does it? Of course, I'm coming at this from a selfish position that says the world is better off with Kimberly Pierce as a profitable and in-demand director and with the message that thoughtful, empathetic movies about the greatest ongoing tragedy of my generation are worth watching.

Grade: B+


Deirdre said...

Oh, Joe. "Impactful"? I weep. I don't care how many dictionaries say it's a word, I refuse to accept it.

Good review, though. I can't wait to see it, myself, and agree that it'd be nice to see Pierce working more.

Joe Reid said...

You know, I sat and stared at that red-underlined word for a long time, but I have made a decision: I like "impactful." It speaks to me, and I'm embracing the semantic drift.