April 18, 2008
Review - " Lions for Lambs " (on DVD) - By Ken Ellis
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Review: Lions for Lambs (DVD)
An MGM release
Directed by Robert Redford.
Screenplay, Matthew Michael Carnahan.
Starring Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise.
Many recent movies have been made about the cornerstone events of the
21st century - 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them are actually quite
good, too, such as "In the Valley of Elah", "United 93" or "Home of the
Brave". They don't however, tend to make a lot of money. At last years'
Oscar ceremony, host Jon Stewart joked about how Hollywood's attitude
towards such films seems to mimic the White House attitude - stay the
course. They keep making these films even though they don't make a
fortune and people seem to be weary of the story. But add yet another to
the list with "Lions for Lambs", a fine, thinking man's (or woman's) film about
the Afghanistan / Iraq wars.
It is told in three areas: in Washington, respected reporter Janine Roth
(Meryl Streep) is called into the office of Sen. Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise),
who promises her an exclusive on a new military strategy in Afghanistan
against the Taliban. In California, college professor Stephen Malley (Robert
Redford) calls in an underachieving student in an attempt to motivate him.
And in two Army rangers in Afghanistan get stuck injured behind enemy lines. Redford takes his time in drawing all three
storylines together, carefully constructing his story to a somewhat incomplete climax. His message at the end seems to
be that he wants the audience to think for itself. Throughout the film there are arguments taking place from the practical
(US military strategy against insurgent guerilla warfare) to the abstract (how does one make a real difference for his
fellow man in this life). What really works best in this film is the dialogue scenes between conservative senator Irving and
intrepid reporter Roth. Their discussion over Afghanistan / Iraq past, present and future makes for fascinating viewing,
even if there is a somewhat left wing slant apparent. A good piece of the film is like this, dialogue and action that makes
one think. This is a film carried primarily by the story and writing first, acting second and direction third. A good, but not
great effort by all involved.