If '07 was any indication, warmongers could issue draft cards more easily than they could sell movie tickets. No matter the angle (soldiers' parents, terrorists, politicians), 2007's war-on-terror related films all waved white flags. Some were rightfully ignored: the Tom Cruise vehicle Lions for Lambs featured one-sided preaching, while the hackneyed prisoner's nightmare Rendition was even more torturous for viewers. Even critically praised efforts, though, from the poignant In the Valley of Elah to Angelina Jolie's heartwrenching performance in A Mighty Heart, bombed worse than Hiroshima.
Bravely entering the battlefield is Paramount Pictures' Stop-Loss, a hitting-closer-to-home drama starring Ryan Phillippe. A soldiers' tale, the film by writer-director Kimberly Peirce follows fighters returning home only to find out they're being immediately sent back. Relatable and sympathetic, sure, but will young moviegoers care? "The issues raised in Stop-Loss won't tap into young audiences' social passion because there isn't much of it out there," says Jack Mathews, head film critic for the New York Daily News. "Today's youth just aren't politically engaged, and movies that announce themselves as politically driven scare them off."
The current war has polarized America, producing an ever-growing number of Michael Moore-like condemners, the same civilians who turned Fahrenheit 9/11 into a blockbuster. For war movies addressing smaller, non-anti-Bush matters (i.e. "stop-loss" soldiers) to register, drastic measures may be needed. "In the '60's and '70's every young person knew someone who had been drafted or had skedaddled to Canada to avoid it," reasons Mathews on how past classics (The Deer Hunter, for instance) earned profits. "We were unknowingly politicized, whether we thought the war was worthwhile or not, and it so dominated our lives that it became a part of movie culture. For movies about wars in progress to become commercial, the U.S. is going to have to bring back the draft." In other words: more superhero movies, please.
Watch the trailer for Stop-Loss here and check out the movie in theaters everywhere March 28
Check out more from KING Magazine's movie page, The Reel, in the May '08 issue. On newsstands now!