Starring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom
Directed By: Robert Redford
Produced By: Robert Redford, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tom
Cruise, Tracy Falco
Genre: Drama / Thriller / War
Release Date: Nov. 9, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: United Artists, MGM
Lions for Lambs is essentially
a story about the power of ideals, the impact of decisions and the
responsibilities of loyalty. The film illustrates how different
people can call concepts such as freedom, equality and justice by
the same name, but their different backgrounds, aspirations and
personal motivations drive them to make very different decisions
based on their personal interpretations of those ideals. Ultimately,
these same considerations can determine whether peoples loyalties
are to tangible entities like their fellow man, their political
party and the welfare of future generations or to more abstract
concepts such as faith, democracy or the "American Way."
In Lions for Lambs we see that some peoples ideals
drive them to make "I" deals, while others compel them
to make "We" deals.
Lions for Lambs is directed
by and co-stars Robert Redford. The film weaves together three different
stories about how the urgency of wartime choices, disenchantment
with the political process and feelings of hopelessness about the
future of America shape the decisions made by different people.
We watch three different stories unfold as two high-minded bright
young soldiers, a charismatic ambitious U.S. Senator and a jaded
"Beltway" bored journalist and an apathetic rich kid college
student and his professor try to come to grips with the choices
they have made or are about to make. It should go without saying
that things will probably work out far better for the handsome,
rich and powerful guy sitting in the leather chair than for the
two young dudes stranded on the frozen battlefield.
Charismatic young Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) has ascended
to the heights of power and enjoys all of the wealth and privilege
that his good looks, pedigree and connections have afforded him.
He concocts his own personal glory-seeking scheme to win small battles
in the mountains of Afghanistan, just to give the people back home
some much needed wins to feel good about. He also thinks it couldnt
hurt his plans to run for the Oval Office.
We watch him lay out his diabolical, but earnestly heartfelt plan
(which is eerily reminiscent of a strategy used in Viet Nam) in
an exclusive interview with reporter Janine Roth played by Meryl
Streep. Irving decides to give Roth an exclusive about his war plans,
because she wrote the first article that caused the Senators
bright star to rise. All those years ago, she truly believed he
was a genuinely compassionate statesman. Now all she sees in front
of her is just another public relations conscious demagogue.
the Senator sits in his cozy office and sells patriotism to the
masses in sound bites, two young soldiers are truly fighting the
good fight on the other side of the world. Ernest (Michael Pena)
and Arian (Derek Luke) are stranded and waiting to be rescued from
atop a snow covered mountain in Afghanistan. The two concerned and
compassionate soldiers decided to forgo the lure of immediate gratification
and big salaries after college. Instead they decide to put their
principles into action by fighting for their vision of "American
Dream" on the battlefields of Afghanistan.
While the dynamic duo lie frightened in a frozen enemy field, back
at their old alma mater in sunny California yet another lesson in
civic duty is being taught. Dr, Stephen Malley (Robert Redford)
who is also Ernest and Arians former professor, tries to talk
one his current students Todd (Andrew Garfield) into filling the
void of leadership the two soldiers left here at home. While Ernest
and Arian would give anything to be back on their sunny college
campus, the professor seems to be losing his battle to get young
Todd to just wake up on time for class.
Young men and women are dying in an apparently senseless war by
the thousands abroad. Yet it becomes painfully obvious that the
Senator believes that just talking the talk here at home is as important
in the larger scheme of things as walking it out on the battlefields.
Even the eyes-wide-open journalist Streep, who considers herself
a journalistic crusader (a write or die chick if you will) and a
first class B.S. detector comes to realize how the media has been
duped into selling the establishments story to the masses
for their own self serving interests. The professors battle to get
the tousle-headed young rich lad to just come to class on time is
demonstrative of how little those of us at home are asked to sacrifice,
yet how much some of us benefit from the sacrifices of others. One
thing is for certain and it should come as no surprise to the viewer
that noone else in the film might actually die from the Senators
choices except the two young men stranded on the snowy icecap. Like
many other young men and women caught up in the war, they will likely
see their boundless potential wasted fighting in the killing fields
of a far-off land.
Essentially, Lions for Lambs is an interesting film
but not especially revelatory or riveting. Its ruminations
while very interesting are most often fairly run of the mill. Written
and produced by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom)
the film rarely tells us anything we didnt already know nor
does it compel us to draw any new conclusions about why young men
and women are being sacrificed on a daily basis for God knows whatever
of the millions of reasons people have rightly or wrongly decided
this war is about. However, what director Redford essentially sets
out to do here is not to tell us what we should believe, but more
importantly tell us that we should still believe in something. The
message here is that we should never lose our passion for making
the world a better place or our vision for building a brighter future.
To that aim the film succeeds in its objective.
The battle scenes and the story of the heroic bond between Arian
and Ernest provides a very engaging back-story or tie that binds
the three stories together. On the other hand, the two bi-coastal
fireside chats between the Senator and the scribe and the professor
and the prodigal student fail to rise above the dramatic arcs of
an episode of Meet the Press.
Nevertheless, Lions for Lambs
is a decent movie with a great concept that fails to live up to
its potential to be a great movie through better storytelling.
The film could have done so much more with its stellar cast,
its legendary director and the mountain of possibilities found
in such a subject of monumental and timely importance. The film
is well done though and still worth seeing. Groups of young people
and families might especially benefit from viewing the film together.
It should lead to some much needed discussions, which was certainly
absent before the start of this war. To be a catalyst for discussion
is essentially what this film aimed to do, so therefore - Mission
(All Photos Copyright © United Artists)