DRAMA; 1hr 53min

STARRING: Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Channing Tatum

Military tactics: from left, Tatum, Cornish and Phillippe

It’s a hell of a thing to be a soldier — if the enemy without doesn’t get you, the enemy within probably will. Stop-Loss opens with a messed-up US Army mission in Iraq, in which Sgt Brandon King (a wound-up Phillippe; Cornish is low-key simpatico as King’s best friend’s girl; Tatum is the best friend) is forced to watch his men die. King is a solid Texan boy and with his duty done, he wants out of the military. The military has other ideas, which don’t include sympathy for the “AWOL shitbags” who try to run. This leaves Brandon on the lam and battling post-traumatic stress.

The Stop-Loss policy is a contractual technicality whereby American soldiers who have finished their run can be reassigned against their wishes. Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce’s forceful screenplay, co-written with Mark Richard, takes a hard look at the contrary dictates of service. Heavily laden with hot-button issues, it raises cause-and-effect questions that demand to be asked, especially since there is no by-rote answer.