Plato did it, but skillfully drawing more attention to subject than technique. Others call this movie's dialog "wooden". Yes, it was eerie. I expected the characters of the three story lines would at any moment turn and face the camera and start dressing me down, you impressionable viewer you. If we lived in a totalitarian state with a well-fettered press, this movie would not stand out as it does. Entertainment for once taking a back seat to Earnestness.
The military story was the most entertaining, or shall we say it started that way. It was the vital, clingy thread, the most must-know-outcome.
Cruise and Streep were the most vividly shamelessly earnest. In a morality play their characters might have been named, Ms. Press and Mr. Government, personifying the eye-sideway selfish interests, open-mouth epiphanies, and thrust-jaw opportunities for redemption of their respective ilks. What was he thinking? Indeed. Well maybe, just maybe, Redford knew exactly how starkly preachy this work would stand out and left his prime message for that level: know when you're being handled. Over the top, I know, but apparently that's fashionable now. So long as you know you're doing it.