Add another notable Iraq-themed movie to the list of box-office losers: "Stop-Loss." As expected, this thought-provoking drama — about Iraq war veterans struggling to readjust to Stateside life — departs Las Vegas theaters Thursday, just as a floodtide of summer releases heads our way starting Thursday.
With the likes of "Iron Man" crowding screens, there's just no room for a movie like "Stop-Loss." And that's the audience's loss.
Released on more than a thousand screens March 30, it has yet to top $11 million. But director Kimberly Peirce's at-long-last follow-up to the Oscar-winning "Boys Don't Cry" packs a haunting punch, especially in the early scenes — and the powerhouse performances, especially from Ryan Phillippe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, rank as two of the year's best. (Not saying much, considering this year's competition, but still.)
But at least "Stop-Loss" is in good company; virtually all of the movies recently in the past few years that have anything to do with the Iraq war (or the 9/11 attacks) have tanked at the box office, from the superb "United 93" (my pick for 2006's best movie) to last year's gripping "In the Valley of Elah," anchored by Tommy Lee Jones' Oscar-nominated performance as a grieving father trying to find out the truth behind his son's death. These movies (and others) deserved a better fate; so did "Stop-Loss."
Yet perhaps audiences have no taste for watching fictional re-creations of a war that shows up on everyone's TV screens with heartbreaking regularity.