355 – Lions for Lambs

“Whatever it takes,” says Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) to journalist Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) as he explains his foolproof plan to save the world from the scourge of terrorism. Too bad director Robert Redford didn’t apply the same sort of balls-out approach to this film, because what we’re left with seems more like a commercial, either for the armed forces, the starched-shirt suits who run wars from their armchairs, or the pompous professors who presume to know everything. Bah to all of it, I say.

The movie’s told in three intertwining parts. In one, a college professor (Redford) talks with one of his many apathetic students (Andrew Garfield) about idealism and acting on principles and doing something, even if it is destined for failure, instead of doing nothing at all. To illustrate his overreaching, heavy-handed points, Redford’s Malley talks about two previous students of his (Michael Pena, Derek Luke) who left the friendly confines of college life to enlist in the current Iraq war.

In the second story, Irving grants an interview to Roth (an hour long one-on-one session, exactly mirroring the professor-student talk) in which he will lay out his grand new plan to retake Afghanistan from the Taliban. For Irving, the interview is a way for him to resell the war to the American public through the use of a very-willing American press. For Roth, it’s a way to get information that no one else in the ultracompetitive media world will have, as it’s an exclusive interview. But who is using whom? Redford wants us to believe that the press is being used by the government, but that’s hardly news; he would also prefer that we think that Roth, representing the media, understands now how much of a shill she and her colleagues have become, but Roth’s actions in that direction come much, much too late in the movie. She certainly should have been pushing Irving a lot harder than she was; instead, she seemed content to sit back and ask the occasional probing question. The underlying effect of this is that Irving’s neocon senator gets to make a long, barely contested speech about saving the world from terror is awesome, and by golly if you don’t agree then you must hate freedom, and blah blah blah. Such posturing would make some sense if any of the jingoistic points made by Irving were addressed, even refuted, but no. For some reason Redford just lets the words hang out there.

The third story involves Malley’s two former students, now Special Forces rangers in the middle of the new operations launched by Irving. For much of the movie, they’re trapped behind enemy lines, one very badly injured, the other trapped in a snowbank, with Taliban members closing in. They don’t know if their fellow soldiers can get to them in time. In the closing moments of the film, one of them makes a decision so disturbingly stupid that it negates all the evidence seen to that point that the two former students had any kind of wits or intelligence about them.

Watching this movie, you can’t help but feel like Redford is smacking you across the head with a 2 x 4, screaming that we need to stand up or fall down or some such emptyheaded nonsense. Like Jasper Irving, Redford’s film offers no ideas, no real food for thought; he’s selling us an vague concept as political theater. Lions for Lambs is a gelatinous dessert, full of sound, half-empty with fury, and signifying nothing new.

*1/2

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One Response to “355 – Lions for Lambs”

  1. Y brown Says:

    this movie was a waste of time. i TRIED to have an open mind and understand the concept but to my disapointment there was no concept just an all star cast, there are boring movies but atleast they make sense. Lions for lambs is a waste of time and all it achived was the fact that people will be horrifed to watch it again. I believe that it was a waste of talent for tom cruise and Merly streep. As for redford i wonder didnt he know he was going to tourture us by directing such a BORING MOVIE.

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