Lions for Lambs a sheepish attempt by Redford

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Robert Redford

Photos copyright 2007 MGM Studios

Lions for Lambs
Directed by: Robert Redford
Starring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise

2.5 stars

War is bad and politicians lie â€" like we haven’t heard that before.

Lions for Lambs treats audiences with yet another post-9/11 commentary on how the government, the media and the everyday citizen are to blame for America’s mess in the Middle East.

The latest from Oscar-winning director Robert Redford is an overtly leftist depiction of America’s War on Terror. The film is made up of three loosely related storylines that explore the political, emotional and philosophical sides of war.

Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep

First, ambitious Republican senator Jasper Irving (Cruise) meets with the seasoned and skeptical journalist Janine Roth (Streep). As Irving tries to persuade Roth to cover a “big story” about a new military initiative, it’s obvious Irving sees the media as a tool for political propaganda. However, Roth doesn’t buy into his pro-war proposal.

Second, college athletes Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke) join the U.S. Army in an attempt to make their mark as active citizens. The two fight for their lives against the Taliban after falling from a military aircraft in Afghanistan.

Lastly, the soldiers’ former political science professor, Dr. Stephen Malley (Redford), lectures Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield), a gifted but unmotivated student about the need to engage in real world issues.

Together, Cruise, Streep and Redford share three Oscar wins and over 15 nominations. While such prestigious recognition for their work is a feat most actors only dream of, it also raises our expectations of the film. Unfortunately, despite these Hollywood royals, the film falls short.

To be fair, the acting from start to finish is flawless. The whole cast’s charismatic performances almost overshadow the film’s faults. The politician/journalist storyline is especially engaging. Cruise and Streep feed off one another, bringing excitement to what could have been a mundane business talk between two professionals.

Soldiers

The film’s biggest mistake is not necessarily the fact it’s 92 minutes of straight conversation with the occasional military action sequence â€" it’s the substandard delivery of its message. You would expect Redford to present the anti-Bush, pro-democratic, liberal motifs in a creative way.

Instead, Lions for Lambs is a painfully over-the-top lecture on why war is bad and how politicians, news media and passive citizens make it worse. The language in the film is so elevated and non-conversational that minimal character development and shallow storylines act as cover-ups to what is essentially a one-sided lesson in history and political science.

The film’s writer, Matthew Michael Carnahan, should have known better than to attack audiences with blatant leftist ideology in a story with no real substance. After writing the politically relevant, sophisticated action flick The Kingdom, Carnahan has what it takes to make a statement without beating audiences over the head.

It’s up for debate whether Redford or Carnahan is to blame for a film with lots of talk but nothing new to say. Either way, in making a movie about 9/11, a common thread in most recent politically-charged films, the director fails to present audiences with a new or different perspective.

The movie’s tagline, “If you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything,” also applies as a warning to moviegoers â€" stand up to self-righteous celebrity politicos, and don’t fall for this movie.

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