Stop Loss (2008)
"You know that box inside your head where you put all that bad stuff you can't deal with? Well, my box is full and all that shit's comin' out," says Sgt. Brandon King, a decorated war hero. He should know. At the end of his Iraq tour he intended to quit the military but was handed a stop-loss and return ticket — the involuntary extension of his active duty service. Of the 750,000 Americans who have served in Iraq, over 80,000 have been stop-lossed. The film follows King and his buddies after they return to a hero's welcome in small town Texas and empty that "box inside your head." It's a box brimming with nightmares, binge drinking, domestic violence, rage, regret, and very deep ambivalence about the experience of war. King and his buddies each present a different facet and response to their return home. A day or two before I watched this film, the most comprehensive study done concluded that 300,000 American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Some reviews have complained that this film is preachy and that the way King finally responds to the stop-loss is unconvincing, but in my mind the merits of reminding us of war's human toll exceed any flaws.