Volume 77 / Number 45 - April 9 - 15, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Stop-Loss” (+)

A very powerful movie displaying anti-war sentiments and the love of a band of brothers from Texas who joined the U.S. volunteer Army.

The film opens at a checkpoint in Tikrit, Iraq, manned by a U.S. army squad led by Staff Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe). When the squad is fired on by terrorists in a passing car, the men quickly follow in their Hummers and find themselves in an ambush situation which results in injuries and deaths on both sides.

Brandon, his best friend, Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), and Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), soon complete their tours of duty and return to their hometown of Brazos, Texas, where they are honored as heroes in a patriotic parade. Shortly thereafter some of the men including Brandon are told they are being sent back to Iraq for another tour of duty. Apparently the contract they signed contains a “stop-loss” provision allowing the President to retain volunteer soldiers during wartime for additional tours. Brandon, who believes he has been betrayed and does not want to return to Iraq, goes AWOL. His friend, Steve, reenlists as a sniper, and Tommy remains in Brazos.

Brandon hits the road traveling with Steve’s girlfriend, Michele (Abbie Cornish). Most of the film is now concerned with their adventures. They drive from Texas to Washington, D.C., where Brandon hopes to present his case to a Texas Senator, (Josef Sommer), whom he met during the homecoming parade. A particularly poignant scene takes place at a Veterans Hospital where Brandon visits a member of his squad who had been seriously wounded in the opening scene of the movie and is now a double amputee and has lost his sight in both eyes. They then drive to New York City where for $1,000 a lawyer will make it possible for Brandon to move permanently to Canada. The script and dialogue ring true. Looking back more than 60 years to World War II, I found the banter among the soldiers and their affection and trust for one another to be displayed by the director, Kimberly Peirce, who directed “Boys Don’t Cry,” with remarkable accuracy. The acting of everyone is splendid including that of Brendan’s parents, (Ciaran Hinds and Linda Emond).

I quietly wept during much of the film and have no doubt that you will too. A special feeing is created by the audience for Texas and Texans as a result of the admiration and respect you have for the soldiers depicted on the screen. God bless Texas and its citizens. Why this film didn’t receive universal plaudits is beyond me. It is definitely worth seeing.

A crawl at the end of the film stated that more than 600,000 U.S. soldiers have fought in Iraq and 89,000 have been subject to the “stop-loss” provision of their enlistment contracts.

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