Lions for Lambs Reviews
The Iraq war was a mistake- even Senator Jasper Irving admits this, albeit with his blame (rightfully, not so oddly enough) stretching to the media sitting across his desk in the form of a report. This is the bedrock that could've made a better film- or at least a better single play- that has Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep playing off each other for the better part of a third of the film. Watching Cruise play a GOP senator who believes sincerely everything he says, even as he smiles through his double-played teeth, is revelatory; it's arguably one of his best performances, if almost too easy. Who would've thought that he could move over some of the characteristics that critics have chided him for for years (jerky acting, a BS entitlement) and made it work splendidly for such a crazy neo-con? Meanwhile, Streep makes this another cake-walk, with her best moments when she's alone in the taxi leaving the interview with the senator, her reactions telling just as much, if not more so, than during (and enduring) it. The power-play between corrupt, power-hungry politician and the veteran reporter caught in over her head thanks to mass media is captivating.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is hit or miss, mostly the latter; Redford plays a political science professor who tries to sway a smart-Aleck student who could be in danger of failing to the side of good by telling him about two students of him who were with enough conviction to enlist, and went to Afghanistan to fight despite the professor's protests. This conversation in the professor's office isn't half-bad, but when it switches to the actual battle scenes - which is mostly the two soldiers with broken legs embedded in a snowy Afghan mountain awaiting their doom - it's awful, the kind of 2nd rate World Trade Center maudlin soldier tripe that wouldn't make it past the studio heads had Redford not been at the helm (in fact, the ending, which might not be a shock to those who have seen their share of "valiant soldier" pictures, is especially offensive in how it is shot and edited, in a manner that is of the utmost exploitation of the audience).
Ultimately, despite the interest that is there and the fine acting, there ends up being, between the three story lines, too much obvious proselytizing, nothing urgent that SHOULD be brought to the discussion; anyone who might be swayed (i.e., not to be stereotypical, conservatives who will only see the lame-brained Cruise action movie vehicles) won't want to see a movie where Cruise just sits in one room, in a suit, with no guns or action that he participates in. And anyone who's already on a liberal side could potentially see this as not merely the obvious stated again (that Bush sucks and Republicans can be really crazy) but propaganda. It's not badly made at all, and it is a writer's movie above all. I just wish it were better written, for the sake of the top-notch cast and the aspirations of the filmmaker- as earnest as he genuinely is in a time of perpetual cynicism- to make a difference.
appreciated the portrayal of social conscience and the lack thereof.