30 Mar 2008 11:44 pm   //   Filed under: Movies, Review

Iraq war still waiting for its movie

Sooner or later, somebody’s going to make a great movie about the Iraq war. Stop-Loss, which I saw this afternoon, isn’t quite it. (Spoilers to follow.)

The film starts strong, with an entirely believable and scary urban firefight in Tikrit. Visually, the battle scenes are told with occasional snippets shot on lossy digital cameras, as if filmed by the soldiers. It’s a crafty touch and a smart reading of the iconography of this digital war.

But I couldn’t buy into the main plot point of the film: That an Army sergeant who has just served a tour in Iraq would go AWOL rather than return for another tour. Not this sergeant anyway, who is portrayed as basically a good soldier. He feels like he has failed his men, and he can’t manage to handle the bad feelings about the deaths he witnessed. His fellow soldiers also battle their own demons as they suffer PTSD-like symptoms back home. I’m still with the movie here. But when our hero disobeys orders for the sake of self-preservation, it just doesn’t ring true to me.

Assuming we buy into this baloney, what’s the moral of the story? That the Iraq war is so deeply wrong that it’s OK to abandon your country? That would be an amazing statement for a mainstream film. Of course, that’s not what happens. The sergeant returns to his unit, the men ship off to Iraq, domestic problems are forgotten, and they all live happily ever after. This is a Paramount/MTV movie, and Viacom has a financial interest in maintaining political influence.

Not the best ending, but at least this movie (unlike this war) has one.