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Stars: Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Abbie Cornish, Steven Strait, Timothy Olyphant, Laurie Metcalf, Rob Brown, Josef Sommer, Ciaran Hinds, Mamie Gummer, Terry Quay

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Surely some soldiers must come home from Iraq relatively normal and mentally sound? I know this is a contentious point, but it seems from Iraq-war films so far that no American boy who's been there is ever the same.

In an excellent action sequence at the start of this one, Brandon King (Phillippe), a youthful sergeant, loses three of his buddies after leading his men into an alley ambush. Returning home a hero, he finds Tommy (Gordon-Levitt) drinking himself to oblivion and Steve (Tatum) unable to communicate with his bride-to-be (Cornish). Another buddy has lost an arm and a leg.

When, on the day of his demob, King is told he is being shipped back to Iraq (the 'stop-loss' process of the title), he snaps. Poleaxing his MP guards, he goes AWOL and eventually heads for Canada.

Aniother painful attempt to explore a painful subject, the film is more than competently performed, but adds little to its genre. And was it my imagination, or does the wound over King's eye switch from left to right in the course of the film? Didn't understand the ending, either, guys. Does King go off to Mexico or back to Iraq?

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by deluxe.
112 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 20 Apr 2008