Lions for Lambs (2007)
Lions for Lambs (2007)

Genre: Drama and War Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: November 9th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Robert Redford Actors: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Pena, Andrew Garfield, Peter Berg, Derek Luke, Kevin Dunn

 


 

W

ith a bit of movie magic, Robert Redford’s obvious political propaganda film “Lions for Lambs” is roughly translated into smart entertainment. But exceptionally strong acting and sharply scripted characters are unable to disguise Redford’s opinionated brand of current events, which often teeters dangerously close to the edge of Army recruitment. Despite the occasional, overbearingly preachy tone, the three steadily converging storylines at the heart of the story showcase top-notch direction and provide clever dialogue for the always enjoyable cast to consume with pomp, irony, and satire.

Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) calls upon reporter Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) to receive an exclusive, one-hour interview with himself to discuss his new plan to win the War on Terror. As he engages in a verbal joust to make the veteran reporter see his reasoning, his plan of action is already taking effect, as a top-secret mission in the Middle East finds two best friends Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Pena) abandoned in the cold confines of an icy plateau, waiting for rescue and surrounded by the enemy. Meanwhile, Dr. Stephen Malley (Robert Redford), a professor who negotiated with the two soldiers in an unsuccessful bid to dissuade them from going off to war, holds a meeting with another hopeful student who shows intellectual promise.

“Lions for Lambs” demonstrates Redford’s seasoned talents as a director through the use of three initially separate storylines that progress simultaneously. As the film draws to a close, it becomes more apparent just how closely those three groups of people are related and intertwined. Plus, it’s revealed that all three events take place at the same time and that each set of associates holds extreme differences in outlooks on world affairs. Despite a periodic flashback, the film is entirely sequential and in chronological order – something few films still do, especially where multiple plot lines are concerned.

“Lions for Lambs” works as both a public service announcement and Redford’s own piece of agitprop. While Janine condemns Irving’s acutely elusive, sometimes intimidating words, Redford also spoon feeds the audience his own perceptions of the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict. What saves the film from collapsing into its own hypocrisy is the outstanding performances by all of the main characters and the manner in which the editing allows for mordancy. In a moment of climactic, cinematic irony, Jasper discusses the effectiveness of the trained professional soldiers stationed in the Middle East as the covert operation over Iran tragically unravels to begin incurring fresh casualties.

Cruise is inspired as the fast-talking, wholeheartedly patriotic, red-blooded American senator, weaving a tale for the press with powerful language and piercing determination. Streep is equally outstanding as the reporter who, despite years of accepting her role as merely a go-between for ruthless politicians to rally their public image, suddenly gains a conscience that forces her to question her position. And Redford makes for an unnatural yet motivational professor, who is convinced that his talents lie in discovering students with the potential to make a difference – as he did with Arian and Ernest, though he was unable to prevent them from pursuing their beliefs.

At the end, Redford is also careful to insert a grandiose finale that paints a glowing picture for likeminded individuals, serving as both an amusing bit of moviemaking and confirmation of his political stance. For those who disagree with his outlook and his representation of the “whatever it takes” attitude of the government, “Lions for Lambs” is nevertheless well-made and brilliantly constructed. And Cruise Photoshopped into photographs with President Bush, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice are hilariously priceless.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10