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“Stop/Loss” is a tough film to watch because there is so much struggle, and much of it ends badly.  We’re in Iraq , fighting the urban war, house to house, alleyway by alleyway.  The platoon sergeant (Ryan Phillippe) unwittingly leads his men into an ambush, losing some in the process, and something snaps in him.  Formerly a conscientious leader, now he can’t wait to get out.  When the time finally comes, he discovers that he is denied his discharge.  The Army can’t afford to lose him, so they just keep him against his will.  Because they can.  And because it’s a way to “stop the loss” of troop strength.  He and his buddies are on temporary leave, where they take turns taking leave of their senses, much to the chagrin of their families and friends, who, understandably, don’t know what to do to help the situation.  Neither do we.  And neither does our military.  The slide show/overture at the beginning will set the somber mood, and there are no laughs to ameliorate.  A serious treatment of a neglected topic in a tragic context.


“The Counterfeiters” (Die Falscher):  Another serious treatment of a neglected topic in a tragic context.  Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is a Russian-born high-rolling German counterfeiter, enjoying himself in cabaret Berlin in 1936.  But the world is crashing around him.  He’s arrested as a criminal, but the fact that he’s a Jew, as well, assures his being shipped immediately to a concentration camp, where he breaks rocks with a sledgehammer all day, and figures that nobody there will last very long.  But the police detective who captured him is now an SS Officer, who “rescues” Sally by putting his pre-wartime profession to good use.  They set up a counterfeiting shop, which cranks out very authentic-looking British pound sterling notes, which the Nazis use in Swiss banks to finance their war effort.  Sally, being a convicted criminal in the first place, doesn’t suffer the moral pangs that other prisoners in his shop do about aiding and abetting the enemy, and living in relative comfort and ease while so much suffering and death surround them. He does, however, live by his own code of ethics, which includes caring for the other prisoners when they are ill or injured, and not preventing them from sabotaging his best efforts. By the time the long-delayed counterfeit American dollar is developed, it’s too late.  The war is obviously crashing to its inevitable conclusion.  Will they ever walk out of the camp alive?  Will they be punished for their part in assisting the Third Reich?  Will they be treated as traitors by the other surviving prisoners?  If they do manage to return to civilian life, how much permanent effect has their long-term incarceration had on their psyches?  Nominated for an academy award for best foreign language film.  And a true story.


“Vantage Point” is not a true story, but it does treat truth as somewhat relative, depending on point of view.  The President of the United States (William Hurt), while visiting Spain for an economic conference, is gunned own in a crowded plaza, and we get the story re-told from several perspectives:  the newscasters, the Secret Service agents, the terrorists, apparently innocent bystanders, and the President himself.   There’s little “down time” in this turbocharged movie, as we, the viewers, are doled out the plot piece by piece, sorting through some of the contradictions, until all converges into a monumental chase scene at the end.  No time for love or humor.  Yes, perspective is relative, as is point of view.  But truth isn’t.


Questions For Discussion:

1)      Should “Stop/Loss” be allowed in our military?

2)      When is truth relative to perspective and vantage point, and when is it absolute? (see John 18: 33-38)

3)      Is the War on Terror a permanent condition of our culture?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas