The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Movie Review:
Stop-Loss

Apr 14, 2008

Stop-Loss, directed by Kimberly Peirce (director of the Oscar winning movie Boys Don’t Cry), is about soldiers in the Iraq war coming home on leave. Two of them, an army staff sergeant Brandon King, and his buddy Steve, are getting out of the Army ... or are they?

Brandon gets stop-lossed. Stop-loss is a process whereby soldiers who have completed their tour of duty are reenlisted against their will. There is a clause in the soldiers’ contract with the Army which allows the President to essentially not allow soldiers to leave the Army when their time is up.

Brandon is furious. He did his time. He was almost killed. He saw his buddies get killed – friends under his command. He does not want to go back to Iraq.

Brandon goes to his commanding officer to find out what is going on– this has to be a mistake. NO. After his CO explains this is no mistake, it is in the contract and “the Army needs you” kind of crap, Brandon replies: “F_ _ _ Bush!” (At which point several movie viewers applauded.) Brandon goes on to say that the contract states specifically that this can only be done in times of war and Bush declared the war over. Brandon’s CO deems him a flight risk and sends him to the stockade. On the way Brandon escapes and goes AWOL.

Soldiers are finding all kinds of ways to get out of the army. The official number of deserters has reached nearly 10,000 (undoubtedly many of these are the guys who have been stop-lossed). In addition, soldiers are getting expelled for drug-use and drinking – which is wide-spread.

To stop this hemorrhage of troops, the army is using stop-loss. It is referred to in the movie as a back door draft. The military has also vastly increased the amounts given out in re-enlistment bonuses and has lowered educational requirements to the point where in 2007, only 70% of inductees had a high-school diploma. The movie says 650,000 men and women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq and 81,000 of them have been stop-lossed.

The movie also shows the serious psychological effects of the war on all the men, especially Tommy, who drinks and ends up shooting himself. Suicide is the fate of more soldiers than were killed in action in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

When interviewed about directing the movie, Kimberly Peirce said that she did not want to criticize the mission. “Stop-Loss is a movie about guys (like her younger brother) who signed up after 9/11 for patriotic reasons. She interviewed many soldiers and many of them told her: “They‘re putting us in impossible circumstances.”

It seems you cannot write a “pro-soldier” movie that does not criticize “the mission.” Like the movie Home of the Brave, about the lives of wounded Iraq war veterans, by taking the side of the soldiers you end up coming out against the war.