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Lions for Lambs is a current issue film that deals with several
relevant topics. The central plot revolves around essentially three
settings that don't directly affect each other through action. They do
however affect each other through course of action presented in debate.
Cruise plays Jasper Irving, a GOP senator with a new plan of action for
the war on terror. Streep is a veteran reporter who is interviewing
him. Simultaneously, Redford is a college professor who has called a
student into his office. A conflict in Afghanistan is taking place
which is linked to the aforementioned plot lines.
Lions for Lambs surprised me with it's balance. I'm an open Republican, and felt that this movie was not a cliché attack against the power that be. The Cruise character could have been given irrefutable hatred material. He could have been caught in a scandal. He could have alienated others with religious furor. Instead he is real and forms educated arguments. He seems rational, and passionate; he can also make a turn to present himself to the public. I don't see this as an attack, but one of the many skills politicians need to succeed. With all they go through and the decisions they have, they don't want the mocking that crying before the camera would carry. The left is represented by Redford's professor and Streep's reporter. Both are treated with rationale conviction. Neither has a clear anti-GOP agenda. Both of these characters even go as far as to acknowledge the error in the ways of their side. If there is a message to the film, it is that we are being sheltered from reality. It was clear to this viewer that Redford is stating that we are placing focus on the minuscule while matters of true importance are treated as second rate. Surely this is something we all can agree on in Lions for Lambs and this comes into fruition as the film evolves.
Aside from the political commentary, which it makes no dance around, this a dialog heavy film. Characters are pinned against their situations which cause them to restrain from a course of action both physically and metaphorically. The conversations are engaging, but it would be arguably more favorable to allow the characters interaction. A few additional technical merits could have gone a long way. For example, the CGI of the Chinook helicopter was not up to par; a memorable score and unique cinematography are also absent. The screenplay is inherently foiled by remarkable coincidence; but there was no way around that. At a scant 88 minutes, Lions for Lambs is quick to get to the point but it is over too fast. These miscues keep it from perfection. Served as they are, Lions for Lambs is thinking person's film that comes highly recommended.
Thumbs are of no use in talking about Robert Redford's "Lions for
Lambs." Sticking them up or down makes little sense. It's not that kind
of movie. What kind is it? Pretty much without a category.
The time is the present, Bush II is president, there is an unending war in the Middle East, the setting is present-day D.C., everything looks documentary-realistic. It could be a Sunday-morning panel discussion, but the cast consists of a bevy of stars, performing magnificently, with a script that seems to be formed by headlines from today's newspapers.
At the center of the film is a lengthy, unlikely, but brilliant duet of a an interview between a veteran, nobody's-fool political reporter (Meryl Streep) and a young hotshot NeoCon senator (Tom Cruise), both utterly believable, notwithstanding the challenge of some lame lines by screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan for Cruise. Still, overall, the business between the two is the "people's business," about the lethal foreign-policy bungling of a war of choice, now running longer than World War II. (These are not editorial comments, but rather a report on what the film says.)
While dissecting the Iraqi disaster, and hearing some surprising and obviously manipulating admissions of errors from Cruise's hawkish senator, the issue at hand is the senator - a key military adviser to the President - trying to steer Streep's skeptical journalist into "selling" a new plan of attack in Afghanistan, something she instantly recognizes as a throwback to failed strategy in Vietnam.
Alternating with the interview segments are battle scenes in Afghanistan where two Army rangers (Derek Luke and Michael Peña) are risking their lives in implementing that new plan. Then, by a stretch and rather awkwardly, there sits Redford's professor in his West Coast college office, pulling the story together between the two lion-like Rangers, who were his students, and a bright, troubled student (Andrew Garfield) who lost his way, baa, baa, baa.
Significant and entertaining, thought-provoking and reality-based sad, mostly well-written, and exceptionally well-acted, "Lions for Lambs" is likely to leave the audience with the feeling of having participated in an important happening, but perhaps not quite knowing what it was.
Gushing about Streep is almost embarrassing, but... Once again, she transcends text, expectations, whatever you may anticipate, and gives a performance to remember and treasure. Her expressions, body language, silences create a character with a life of her own, a "real person" we, the audience, feel as if we have known always, intimately.
So many negative comments about this movie. But I think we should take a moment to assess what the movie is about. Starting from the title to the credits, the movie is not about a heroic battle or an indelible mistake by a over zealous, self absorbed government. It is about understanding a mindset. If any of you have ever read Francis Fukuyama... its about history repeating itself. Its about the common man being a pawn, about how life really is not a 'great equalizer'. Redford does a brilliant job looking at showing the dynamic impact numerous aspects/events and individuals who impact our lives truly have. The self serving ego of one senator, or the inability of a teacher to persuade a student, or a reporter having to turn a blind eye to conscience because of a need to put a meal on the table the next day. It is nice to finally watch a Hollywood war related film without a heroic massacre. Or a rescue from the jaws of death, or the pity of a sympathetic enemy. Indegenes (French film about WWII) was the last movie that actually attempted to understand the core of the individual, the motivation of an action. Redford captures the same...a stellar film maker!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before you go any further let me tell you that I'm not American, so I'm
not writing this to support any particular view or political party. I'm
Polish, studying in US I appreciate good cinema and by this I mean
intelligent movies that do more than just trick you/cheat you into
having a particular crafted/staged emotion. My comment was reported as
abuse for reasons I don't understand. I have seen this movie, I didn't
like it and I didn't write this as a political rant. Quite honestly, as
culture gets more and more "dumbed down" and bubble gum like so do the
so-called thought provoking movies. Compare this with any of the
communism-period Wajda work, and you will see real multilayer
movie-making . This week I was able to get into the sneak preview of
Tom Cruise's latest movie "Lions for lambs". Now, I can enjoy a good
anti-war movie even if I don't agree with its' message. But this wasn't
"Platoon" or the "Deer hunter", It didn't even have one tenth of the
complexity of "Munich". This movie felt like pure propaganda, not
provoking you to think but telling the viewer what to think. It didn't
really bother with much of a plot and in my opinion was really
insulting viewer's intelligence with how much it felt to spell out "war
is bad" and "Republicans lie". Running approx. 1:20 minutes it even
conformed to the format of shock value propaganda movie. If anything it
felt like those Donald Duck anti-Nazi cartoons Disney put out in the
1940's. It's not that I think a movie can't criticize this government I
support the war in Iraq but I see and understand that someone might
have a different view. This movie's only point is that no rationally
thinking person would ever support the war in Iraq or Afghanistan and
people do so only because they're duped by silver tongued Republicans.
Tom Cruise plays the GOP spin doctor, trying to sell the new Afghan
strategy to a CNN caliber reporter, Meryl Streep. This is the movie's
weakest point. The characters mostly talk- we have a reporter and a
republican, engaged professor and a lazy student trying to get him to
care about things surrounding him, and we have a story about young,
promising students who decide to enroll, go to war and die. People with
opposing views talk about patriotism and conservative characters are
either exposed as liars or naive and dismissed. There is nothing wrong
with talking but this picture I found to be very preachy. This movie
can't seem to comprehend that there is no right and wrong in politics.
We already know what people's opinions are anyway so there's nothing
new to discover. The movie's only point is that: Republicans lie and
they know they are lying, the Democrtats are on the side and good and
light but are too lazy and preoccupied with making news about over the
top celebrities(as movie hints with ending with shots of the
entertainment headlines on a news network and a question: what will you
do? to call opponents' bluff and talk about how we're losing in Iraq.
The producers believe that no reasonable person can think otherwise.
There is not a single notion that this may come from fundamentally different views on the world and that people may have conflicting opinions and that's not unpatriotic or unjustified.The film claims to offer a fair view. It brings up some facts and views but quickly dismisses them if it doesn't fit the major premise. Republicans bad, Democrats good. The movie also tries to manipulate by showing Streep driving down DC and seeing graves and the Memorial Monument from the car at the end. There is something really odd about her performance and very theatrical face expressions that felt like she's saying "I'm Meryl Streep and I'm acting", while the jelly Tom Cruise character looked as if he was about to jump on his sofa prosing his love for Katie Holmes. This is a very political movie, but not in a way that's smart and witty. It's blunt and emotionally void,but
Not true! Robert Redford didn't take to the pulpit to give us a pet talk. He's far too subtle, honest and compassionate to pull a stunt like that. The film is about questions not about answers and we're all grateful for that. I left the theater with a weight on my chest because I believe in the validity of the questions and the individual responsibility of finding the fair way to the answers. Important to remember, at least it was for me, that this is a film delivered to us by three icons. Robert Redford, a symbol of consistency and independence, Meryl Streep, an actress who defined the last two decades of film acting with characters that went straight to the center of something and Tom Cruise, the box office champion who's become a controversial figure despite of his undeniable humanity. I will take a stand here and advise you to go and see this film. You will come up with new questions and a potential road map for the answers.
I went to see this movie with contrasting feelings, because I read a few reviews in advance. Many of them blamed it for being too didactic, thus lacking the basic qualities a movie should have. Many others praised it in a very ideological way, thus raising in me the fear it was a piece of propaganda. Well, after I spent the 80 minutes watching the movie I thought not even 60 had elapsed, and my attention and empathy didn't ever fail for a single minute. There is no doubt that a movie so extensively based upon dialog is very unusual: but this turns out to be one of its most valuable asset and proves the great value of the script. It is not an action movie in any of the conventional ways: yet I followed it with the attention, the suspense and expectations feelings that usually an action movie raises. I think that indeed it is a sort of intelligence action movie - as such it stands out over the best stuff that visual media performances are usually producing today. The second point I most appreciated has been its ability in portraying the main characters' different viewpoints in a very complex way, as it must be: there were no all round villains nor all round heroes. Doubtless there is a very much defined view and attitude, but it is not supported in a mere ideological way. In fact, it has no clearcut, simple answers to offer to a damningly complex situation full of contradictions as it actually is. It is full of subtleties, in dialog not less than in body languages and settings. It is often moving without ever slipping into cheap rhetoric. It's a movie that in a way "should" be seen and re-seen and reflected and discussed upon to wake up people from all sorts of addictive indifference as well as of addictive "I'm right, they're wrong" self complacency. Last but not least, in my opinion this movie is a good instance of what is needed to roll back anti-American feelings that have been spread out due to the American government policies and behavior in the last decade. May I offer my apologies for my English to the readers that will have had the patience to go through my comment.
The Seventh movie direction of Bob Redford, Lions for Lambs is a movie
about conscience and the effects of politics and the government in
society, it also touches several aspects of the American society, such
as student issues, the manipulation of media for political propaganda
It also invites the viewer to reflect on very important ethical and moral issues of modern society.
Great Cast and good direction but I think the most important part of this movie it's the message but as I said before, you'll either loath it or think about it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm quite reluctant to criticize this movie because I basically agree
with every sentiment it expresses. I just wish it could express them
with more grace, style and subtlety. The movie makes some very valid
points about the American political system, patriotism, the so called
War on Terror, the lack of engagement of youth and the comatose
subordination of the American media. Most of which I agree with. And
yet it left me utterly cold and disengaged.
To summarise briefly, the movie consists of essentially 3 scenes; a senator's office in DC (representing the establishment), a college professor's office in California (representing the liberal element) and a mountain top in Afghanistan (representing active engagement). In Afghanistan, two unfortunate, brave recruits are lying injured and waiting for rescue. The scenes take place in real time; in other words, it's all supposed to be happening in parallel.
The senator, Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise), in his impressive office, is disclosing an exclusive on a new Afghan military "Push", to a veteran reporter (Meryl Streep), the college professor Malley (Robert Redford as a political scientist) is trying to engage the interest of a cynical, bright young student who has given up studying because it's all so pointless, and the two buddy soldiers have just fallen - or jumped - from a damaged helicopter which came under attack in the Afghan mountains, as it took part in the "Push". The senator is trying to justify the military action, mostly to promote his own career, while Streep's reporter is wrestling with her conscience. She is supposed to meekly lap up this scoop she is being given and report it uncritically, as a good patriotic American and one whose career is on the downhill run, coasting towards oblivion in a world obsessed with triviality and junk. When, she wonders, did the media roll over and become the poodle of the government?
In the meantime in California, Professor Malley engages in a battle of words with his clever, cynical and privileged student Todd, telling him of two equally bright but financially challenged minority students who left college the previous year to join the army, so as to experience for themselves the sharp end of the War on Terror. The movie is at pains to question the War on Terror and the people who facilitate it, without dissing the poor grunts on the ground. It makes the point and it's a valid one - that many of the people who protested the Vietnam War a generation before, had actually fought in it because they were forced to by the Draft. With no universal draft to dodge, why should the 21st century's self-obsessed kids be interested in a war being fought a dozen time zones away, especially when they are fed a constant diet of escapist pap by the media? At least the two buddies now dying in Afghanistan were trying to actively engage with the issue.
It certainly wasn't the performances which were at fault. They were mostly excellent. I especially loved Tom Cruise as the senator; he was so perfectly insincerely sincere. It's easy to forget what a good actor he actually is, when so much of what we see of him is ..well .escapist media pap. I will never tire of watching Meryl Streep, whom I have worshipped for 30 years, Robert Redford was Robert Redford, does he ever play anyone else? The guys who played the two soldiers were convincing and as for Andrew Garfield who played Todd, I see dozens of him every day here in California, he had the character to a T.
So why do I feel so negative about this movie? Because it's really not a movie at all. This is stage play looking for a theatre. I am certain if I'd seen this at my local Rep., with a good cast and some inventive and lively direction, I'd have walked out of the theatre feeling I'd seen something excellent and thought provoking. I can see the set in my head, the stage divided into 3 zones, lit in turn as we cut from scene to scene, the trapped soldiers at the very front, close to the audience, where we can see their agony as they wait for death. It would make riveting and tense theatre in the right hands and could be very moving. And in the context of live performance, it would be much more politically relevant, and could even seem quite daring.
But as a movie it just turned me off, I felt battered to insensibility, there wasn't an ounce of subtlety to it, far too wordy, worthy and preachy. And if Redford as director is trying to get his message over to the youth of America, this is not the way to do it. This is preaching to the converted. Disengaged kids are not going to turn out in droves to see Meryl Streep and Robert Redford on a Friday night. I'm sorry, but they are just not.
And as for the Afghan mountain set, with its atrocious lighting, fake snow, lame pyrotechnics and polystyrene boulders, it reminded me of early Star Trek episodes, where the rocks bounced off the actors. You can get away with minimalist, representational sets in the theatre. In fact, they are positively encouraged, so we can concentrate on the performances. But live theatre and a movie are two different animals, and here it just had me groaning at the cheapness.
My husband loved it. Hmmmm.
The words that become a catch phrase tend to confuse rather than clarify. They all say this, we all know that, when in fact, truth is always the simplest if not the easiest of answers. Here Robert Redford is not trying to be Oliver Stone. No, he remains Robert Redford in his handsome rugged way asking us to think without ever even asking it. He provokes the question in a situation that we all seem to have taken sides. I admired the seriousness of the intention here. Meryl Streep is terrific interviewing an inedited Tom Cruise - All the recent gossip about Cruise made his Senator even more sinister. Redford, the all American guy, guides according his own coordinates but doesn't preach. He just tells us. Well done!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
LIONS FOR LAMBS (2007, starring Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, and Robert
Redford, directed by Robert Redford)
In Robert Redford's excellent Lions for Lambs, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise, playing a liberal journalist and a Republican senator, respectively, sit in a Washington office and have a conversation for around an hour. There isn't necessarily anything overtly cinematic about these scenes; it is just two people sitting in a room, talking about the senator's new counterterrorism policy. And, yet, masterfully, there is something incredibly cathartic about their conversation, as if these twoa couple of the greatest stars of our generationare saying things that we have all been thinking, and, yet, haven't been said. I could have sat in that theater, with rapt attention, for hours, if I could have been promised that their diatribe would have continued with such intellectual deftness, as a breath-taking battle between the two major American ideological forces of our time.
Of course, this dialogue did not take up the entire film, andperhapsit is better than it did not. Reaching for the hyperlink feel of movies like Crash and Babel, director Redford imbues the film with two other plot lines: one involves Redford himself, as a college professor trying to motivate a gone-awry, but intelligent, student, and the other dealing with two soldiers (both former students of Redford) who, upon graduation, decided to enlist in the Army and were sent to Afghanistan. Redford's section is, at least, an effective call-out to the collegiate generation to stand up and get involved with the future of America, but the scenes involving the two soldiers (played with minimal exertion by Derek Luke and Michael Pena) serve only to put an emotional face on the political conflicts of the film. While those scenes are effective tear-jerkers, they are also heavy-handed.
But, again, the rest of the film serves only to magnify the brilliance of the scenes involving Cruise and Streep. As Cruise continues to outline his new strategy to ensure victory is Afghanistan, Streep bombards him with parallels to Vietnam; as he questions her patriotism and how eager the media was to sell the war in Iraq, she responds with the painful admission that maybe her ideals had been compromised. All of this is played with an air of wink-nudge friendliness that is both incredibly intriguing and slightly perturbing. These are two master-class actors at the top of their game and to watch them engage in such a verbal and political toil is exhilarating. The icing on the cake is a scene at the end of the film where Streep confronts her news producer about what she had gleamed from the interview with the senator. She believes that Cruise is leading the country into a dangerous and deadly situation; her producer is eager only to use her reporting as news bites on the network's newscrawler. What she says during this debate is not only an acerbic assassination of the modern corporate news industry, but phenomenal acting. I'm not usually an ardent fan of Streep as an actress, but here is a role when she is in a level all of her own. She merits any praise and awards consideration that is driven her way.
That is a problem for the film, though. The performances, especially from Streep and Cruise, outclass the film itself. While it tries to be a simple, get-out-and-do-something message picture, its high-wattage stars light up and steal the screen. The message still gets across, but one has to wonder if Redford's full aspirations for the film are, at least, somewhat overshadowed. Still, Lions for Lambs doesn't take sides and allows a spirited debate of the state of American politics. It even allows you to forget all of Tom Cruise's personal issues and allows him to escape his media persona. Any film that can do that merits some serious respect.
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