One of the greatest American films of the last ten years is Boys Don’t Cry. It makes me feel old that it is nine years old but it is the tragic tale of a transgendered man living in the Deep South. The director, Kimberly Peirce disappeared after this and went away.
When she came back, no one noticed. Stop-Loss was released in cinemas earlier this year and the buzz on it was so muted that even I, massive fan of her previous work that I am, didn’t go to see it. What a fool I was.
Stop-Loss is a magnificent film. It is yet another anti-Iraq movie, a genre notable only for its recent size and total lack of punch. But in Stop-Loss there might actually be something meaningful said. It tells the story of a group of boys from the same town in Texas who go off to become men and serve their country Rah Rah Rah. When they return after their final tour of duty they are heralded as heroes and their hometown throws a parade.
But the SSgt Brandon King is stop-lossed. That is, he is suddenly ordered back into the fray through an executive command. He is repulsed by the injustice of this and goes AWOL and that, you see, is the plot of Stop-Loss.
The reason this film affected me so much is that I did not perceive it as yet another Lions For Lambs; a film made as an excuse to preach against the Iraq invasion for people who never even considered the claims of the Iraq invasion. Stop-Loss works for me because Peirce skillfully tells the stories of soldiers. Of men who, out of the best intentions and in a noble tradition enlist in their citizen army to serve others, even at great cost to themselves.
By concentrating on the soldiers and specifically the great weight that is borne by them in any and every society, the movie tangentally lands a brutal blow against the invasion of Iraq that other films can only dream of.
This film also proves beyond doubt that it is so not cool to cry during an in-flight movie. Man, was my seat-mate uncomfortable.
Your Correspondent, he thought about the army but he dropped out and joined a band instead