Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Stop-Loss Movie Poster Image
Mature, violent war drama tackles heavy issues.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 112 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Characters break the law, get roaring drunk, and fight. In Iraq, soldiers are ambushed, shoot at civilians, save friends, and make mistakes.


A shooting at a checkpoint leads to an ambush, which includes more shooting, explosions, and bloody bodies. Images of body bags and wounded men on gurneys; flashbacks throughout the film cut to bloody, loud fighting. At home in Texas, two men fight (punching and wrestling). Drunken men shoot at bottles and a snake. A soldier hallucinates that his friend is drowned in a pool. Two friends argue over one giving his fiancée a black eye. A man hits his guards and escapes custody. Brandon describes a soldier's violent death. A soldier is beaten by three robbers; he then beats them and scares them with a gun, leaving with a very bloody cut over his eye. Rico is injured in Iraq: At the hospital, he's scarred, blind, and missing an arm and a leg. A character shoots himself off screen. Two friends fight in a cemetery, sputtering, falling, and bruising.


A video of a sergeant's girlfriend is sensuous (not explicit); his buddy comments on her "t-tties." When Steve is drunk, he strips to his underwear and passes out. Scantily dressed women appear at a distance; someone calls them "hookers" (and they look the stereotypical part).


Pervasive language includes "f--k" (in both dialogue and song lyrics), plus "s--t" (with "bull-"), "damn," "ass," "hell," and "busting my balls." Racist use of the term "hajji" to refer to Iraqis.


Honda motorcycle, beer brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Heavy drinking (beer, tequila) and cigarette smoking at a welcome home celebration. A very drunk Steve digs a trench and wields his gun, and a drunk Tommy crashes his car. Soldiers, including Brandon, smoke cigarettes repeatedly and shoot at beer bottles and other objects while drunk. More drinking in a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this mature war drama features some pretty graphic violence, including shootings, explosions, and angry fistfights, all of which result in bloody injuries, broken bodies, and deaths. These images appear both in present-time and in traumatic flashbacks. There are some sexual allusions and rowdy slang; other language includes frequent use of "f--k" and other obscenities.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybleuskytx April 9, 2008

So True to whats going on in the Army

When I saw this, it was so right on the money. I can't tell them thank you enough for making this movie. Now is every one in America would go and see it.... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Brandon's (Ryan Phillippe) time in Iraq has been hectic and hard, but he and his buddies have grown close, and now they're eager to head home. But before they leave, they suffer through one more terrible day in Tikrit, including an ambush that leaves some soldiers dead or injured. STOP-LOSS then cuts to small-town Texas, where Brandon, his best friend and fellow sergeant Steve (Channing Tatum), and fellow veterans Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Isaac (Rob Brown) are having trouble readjusting to civilian life. Brandon's unease is turned on its head when he learns he's "stop-lossed" -- re-enlisted against his will to help maintain troop levels in Iraq. Brandon goes AWOL and, accompanied by Steve's unhappy fiancée Michelle (Abbie Cornish), drives to Washington, D.C., intending to plead his case. But what he learns along the way is that he has no good options.

Is it any good?

Kimberly Peirce's movie makes an impassioned case against the stop-loss policy by considering the costs of war and sense of betrayal felt by U.S. troops. It does this in several ways, some of which are more effective than others. While Michelle is a great sidekick -- tough, smart, and angry -- the fact that the male troops' traumatized reactions are basically a collector's set of stereotypes is unfortunate; Brandon is the anguished moral center, Steve the gung-ho hero, etc. Similarly, Brandon and Michelle's travels are punctuated by encounters with obvious "lessons": a crew of punks, a family dealing with a son's death, a veteran on the run who can't look after his sick child.

Despite these structural issues, Stop-Loss offers dense, compellingly detailed situations, especially concerning the young soldiers' efforts to rethink what it means to be men. With its focus on the unhealthy rituals of manhood and male community that are encouraged by the military (specifically, a fear of otherness that translates into racism and misogyny), the film recalls Peirce's Boys Don't Cry, a remarkable excavation of gender roles and bonds. As Steve can't face life away from his comrades (and with Michelle), Brandon agonizes over deserting his friends. Again and again, the film shows how the devastating experiences and impossible expectations of young men in wartime are unjustified. These problems are only compounded by the backdrop of the war in Iraq, where, flashback scenes reveal, troops are under-equipped, under-trained, and unguided. If this message requires pretty young actors to get out to an audience, so be it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violent war imagery. Ask kids where they see disturbing images most -- on TV or the Internet -- and ask them how they deal with what they see. Families can also discuss what messages the movie is sending about war and the military. Is it the job of movies and TV shows to examine important social issues and current events? What other movies can you think of that have handled big topics in a similar way? How does this movie showcase the problem of stop-loss? Does it offer any solutions or resolutions?

Movie details

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