Staff Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) is stationed in Tikrit, Iraq. He and his men are in charge of a checkpoint post. When a carload of armed men drives by shooting at them, they take off in pursuit and wind up in an alley with buildings on both sides. In the ensuing shoot-out, King loses three men; another is badly wounded; and a group of civilians are killed.
Brandon, who is badly shaken by the incident, is glad to return home where he is given a hero's welcome in Brazos, Texas. He receives a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star from a Senator (Josef Sommer). His gung-ho buddy Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) is also happy to be home and reunited with his fiancé Michele (Abbie Cornish), who has been dating him for five years.
It is not easy for these war-ravaged men to adapt to everyday life in America. Steve gets violent with Michele and one night digs a hole in their yard and spends the night there with his gun. Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) plunges into a depression and, after he beats his wife, is kicked out of his home.
Brandon, who is convinced that he has served his country with honor and loyalty, is astonished to find out that he has been called up for another tour of duty under the "stop-loss" policy. Using a loophole in his military contract, it essentially extends his enlistment indefinitely, preventing him from retiring. This shameful policy, also widely known as a "Back Door Draft," has been used with 80,000 soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; many have had to do multiple tours when they thought they had completed their required term of service.
Stop-Loss is director Kimberly Peirce's first film since the acclaimed Boys Don't Cry. The screenplay, co-written by Peirce and Mark Richard, is based on her brother's experiences while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and true stories of soldiers who rebelled against their stop-loss orders. Philippe is credible as the skilled soldier who is outraged by the injustice of having to serve more time in Iraq after his required tour of duty has been completed. His decision to go AWOL puts him on the road with Michele, an old childhood friend who feels his pain and wants him to find peace. A violent encounter with some street thugs and a visit to Rico (Victor Rasuk), a vet who has lost an arm, a leg, and his sight , unhinges the already unstable Brandon.
Although the finale is unsatisfying, the film does shed light on the odious stop-loss policy and the shabby treatment of veterans.
Special features on the DVD include 11 deleted scenes; the making of Stop-Loss; featurette: A Day in Boot Camp.