This is the story about an Army soldier who went AWOL rather than be sent back to Iraq for another tour of duty, but then changed his mind and went back to war. Ryan Phillipe plays the lead character of Brandon King who is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army stationed in Iraq during the war. The squad he leads is almost ready to rotate back to the States when they come under heavy fire while on patrol. They are hit by a RPG killing two of their squad members. Another RPG is aimed at PFC Tommy Burgess (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He is saved by the heroic actions of PFC Rico Rodriguez (played by Victor Rasuk) who jumps on him shielding him from the blast, being severely injured in the process. Sgt. Steve Shriver (played by Channing Tatum), accidentally kills some civilians when trying to take out an insurgent with a grenade. A third U.S. soldier is killed by having his face blown off.
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Steve and Brandon are both decorated as war heroes, when they return home to a small town in Texas. Steve suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and goes crazy, digging a hole in his yard, as if still in war, and even hitting the woman, Michelle (played by Abbie Cornish), who he is supposed to marry. Brandon tries to help Steve but he is not able to snap him out of it. Tommy shows up drunk because his wife threw him out of their house. They got out to a cabin in the woods, drinking and shooting. For target practice, they use the wedding gifts for Steve's now-cancelled wedding. When the time comes, they go back to the base. Instead of being discharged, they are ordered to return to Iraq under the stop-loss policy, where the military can extend duty time if there is a war going on. Brandon refuses to follow orders. He goes AWOL.
Michelle offers to go with Brandon to Washington, D.C. to help him get out of the mess. On the way there, they visit the family of one of the soldiers that was killed in Iraq. They meet another soldier who is also AWOL that recommends Brandon run to Canada. They visit PFC Rodriguez who had his right arm and leg blown off, his face burned, and was blinded when he saved Tommy in Iraq.
They call Steve to tell him where they are. Steve shows up in full uniform insisting that Brandon go back with him. Steve tells them he re-enlisted and is going back to Iraq. This makes Michelle furious. She breaks up with him over this. Michelle and Brandon get to New York. They meet with a shady lawyer who wants to sell them forged documents that Brandon can use to escape to Canada. Meanwhile, Tommy succumbs to depression and kills himself. Brandon comes back for the funeral. Steve and Brandon physically fight at the graveside. Brandon goes with his mom to the border of Mexico, but finds he cannot run away, leaving everyone behind. Brandon goes with Steve back to fight in Iraq.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like this story because the decisions that they must make are very challenging and it is not easy to see what is best for them to do in such difficult circumstances.
Best scene in story:
I like the scene when PFC Rodriguez sacrifices himself and jumps on Tommy to save him from the RPG blast. That is a true hero.
Opinion about the main character:
The fact that Brandon is so conflicted about what to do, seems cowardly. He should just accept his weakness and run away or man up enough to go back to the fight in Iraq.