This is the second Iraq war themed film in the past six months to arrive on the big screen with a title derived from an actual military term (as opposed to a movie title such as The Kingdom and Lions for Lambs), the other being Rendition. Aside from that, this movie has very little in common with its Iraq war brethren, besides the fact that none of them were terribly big hits at the box office.
What does this have to do with Stop-Loss? Not much, really. However, it does point out the lack of desire among the movie-going audience to see films dealing with such volatile subject matter regardless of the quality, or lack thereof, of said film. This begs the question: is Stop-Loss a good movie? The answer is a simple one, if a bit non-committal. Generally it is good, but is not excellent or even very good.
The first question I had going in was just what does stop-loss mean? Well, I do not want to get into a long discussion, so I will keep this short. Stop-loss is the involuntary extension of a service member's enlistment contract beyond its normal end date, and it's just one of the issues dealt with in the film.
Stop-Loss covers some of the same ground as In the Valley of Elah (which garnered Tommy Lee Jones an Oscar nomination), and the direct to video release Home of the Brave. Unlike the former, Stop-Loss has more action and a younger target audience that is more in line with those most likely to be affected by the stop-loss policy. As for the latter, these two are much more closely related as they both deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and the difficulties that these young men and women encounter upon trying to readjust to life away from the battlefield. The difference is that Stop-Loss feels much more organic and natural, where Home of the Brave had much more of a manufactured feel as the script had to work the characters into each other's lives, while Stop Loss had them from the same town to begin with. No, not perfect, but it felt more "real."