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Lions for Lambs Preaches Leftist Politics

  • Eric & Lisa Rice Crosswalk.com Contributing Writers
  • 2007 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
<i>Lions for Lambs</i> Preaches Leftist Politics

DVD Release Date:  April 8, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  November 9, 2007 (limited)
Rating:  R (war violence and language)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  91 min.
Director:  Robert Redford
Actors:  Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Michael Pena, Derek Luke

In Lions for Lambs, you’ve got three of the biggest, heavy-hitting actors together on-screen:  Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.  No doubt you’ve heard this film is an edgy, political drama centered on a war. 

So, with that in mind, what do you think of?  Maybe Cruise trouncing a Marine Colonel in the thrilling courtroom scene in A Few Good Men?  Or Redford as a hot-on-the-trail reporter in All the President’s Men?  How about Streep, known as “the greatest living film actress,” in Rendition

Well, forget all that.  Though it’s a star-studded cast, Redford delivers us a heavy-handed, low budget, political lecture that, mercifully, only lasts about ninety minutes.

When movies like this come out around election time, we should take pause and realize that such timing is quite intentional.  Lions follows on the heels of an even more disturbing, political war film, In the Valley of Elah, which released earlier this fall.  Tommy Lee Jones’s role in Elah is parallel to that of Redford’s here, and both movies bring audiences one-sided portrayals of the war in Iraq.

In Lions, Streep’s character, Janine Roth, is a liberal television journalist, and Cruise plays Republican Senator Jasper Irving.  Irving has called Roth to his office, where his goal is to convince his former ally to use her pull in the media to promote his new idea to win the war on terror.

For an hour (in real time … believe us), he pontificates about his plan, while we periodically cut to Professor Stephen Malley (Redford), who is trying to convince one of his students to stop wasting his life and start making a real difference in society.  Malley isn’t clear about how exactly that’s to be done, but he is clear that it’s not in volunteering for the war.  After all, two of his former favorite students (Derek Luke and Michael Pena) volunteered, against his better counsel, and are now in the worst throes of harm’s way.

We then cut to Afghanistan, which is where Senator Irving’s plan is quickly unfolding.  He wants to head off a strike against coalition forces and catch the enemy by surprise, before winter, by positioning small groups of soldiers on various key ridges in the mountains.  We soon see that the professor’s student/soldiers are merely sitting ducks—pawns of the starched senator who has only worked in military intelligence and whose boots have never touched the soil of war.  Thus, the meaning behind the film's title.

Some of the dialogue is thought provoking, and the actors do their best with the script they were given. Streep’s character bombards the senator with tough questions that imply parallels to Vietnam, and the senator questions her patriotism and reminds her how eager the media was to sell the war in Iraq.  Roth admits that perhaps her ideals have been compromised.  She goes back to her network and tells them she won’t run the story, and her boss tells her that her job is at risk, that her elderly mother won’t get the care she needs if Roth loses her job.  These scenes are played out cleverly and evoke deep thought on complicated subjects.

All that being said, in the end Lions for Lambs breaks the number one screenwriting rule:  show it, don’t say it.  With ninety-eight percent lecture and two percent visual action, it’s just a long, boring diatribe.  So save your  money and skip this rehash of the endless “what mistakes did we make in Iraq?” debate.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Few, if any, portrayals.
  • Language:  Several obscenities and profanities, including numerous “f” words.
  • Sex:  None.
  • Violence:  War violence shown, with soldiers shooting at each other, killing each other, etc.  No bloody body parts or gruesomeness. 
  • Worldview:  Liberal, anti-American in places.  Basically says there’s no good answer to the war on terror, enlisting in the military is not the way to go, and Washington leaders make uninformed, uncaring, seat-of-the-pants decisions that put brave, overly-idealistic soldiers at too much risk.