Lions for Lambs (15)

Film

War films

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Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise in Lions for Lambs

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Time Out says

Posted: Mon Oct 15 2007

‘Lions for Lambs’ – or, more accurately, ‘Politics for Dummies’ – is directed by Robert Redford and stars Redford as a corduroy-clad, idealistic university tutor in California who spends most of this self-important and empty film – that’s at least six years too late to have any real relevance beyond the box-office – in conversation with a promising but lazy student (Alex Garfield) who he wants to teach the value of personal and political engagement. Meanwhile, up in Washington, Tom Cruise is baring his whiter-than-white incisors as a smooth-talking, high-flying young senator who has granted veteran television-news reporter Meryl Streep an hour-long audience to announce a new, more aggressive military policy in Afghanistan.

The filmmakers must have imagined sparky, engaging conversation between these duos similar to a high-speed tennis bout between skillful pros; what emerges is more comparable to a lazy afternoon table-tennis knockabout in an old people’s home. While these pairs talk and talk and then talk some more, either directly or indirectly touching on some current and always broad American political divisions, we witness some action in the dark mountains of Afghanistan and the tragedy of two soldiers played by Derek Luke and Michael Peña. We later discover that these two young men are former students of Redford who, considering how best to engage in political discourse, have boldly decided to enlist. And so with these two men on the mountainside, the film’s plot is complete: Redford and Carnahan know all too well that ‘important’ Hollywood movies these days must have circular stories that tie together different, apparently unrelated strands in a flash of slightly corrupted chronology. That way lies universality, greatness and sometimes even awards.

Back to the two soldiers – I’m not sure whether we’re meant to think that these young men are regretting their choice to join the army or that we’re meant to see them as ordinary heroes as they find themselves surrounded by shadowy armed figures on a deserted mountain-side. They emerge as both – not an entirely different perspective to writer Matthew Michael Carnahan’s recent ‘The Kingdom’ in which he also argued that Our Boys – or Their Boys – are suffering the effects of poor decisions by central government. It’s a crafty – some might say cowardly – way of ensuring both dissent and patriotism in the same film. There’s another scene here in which Cruise gives a monologue, the message of which amounts to: ‘Don’t ever forget 9/11’. He’s a smarmy politician and we’re not meant to trust him, yet the music blares up for this speech. It’s have-your-cake-eat-it time.

The politics of this film are basic beyond belief, which would be acceptable is they weren’t also so muddled and unconvincingly expressed. Apathy is a theme: the promising student is obviously a symbol of latent intelligence which, if roused, might make for a more varied and powerful political debate among the American people. Yet this tack is heavily compromised by the casting of the director in the role of the selfless humanitarian with a message; personally, I don’t like being lectured by Hollywood millionaires, especially when their script bears little evidence of real engagement with ideas. The conversation between Redford and Garfield – about grabbing life by the balls, about avoiding regrets, about whether to engage or just to coast along through life – is not very interesting or credible. It’s very stagey, and its point is made early on. Some lines are designed for Oscar-night clips: ‘Rome is burning son,’ says Redford, ‘and the problem is with us.’

Over in Washington, the pairing of Cruise and Streep has a little more dynamism to it. Cruise is fairly charismatic as a teflon politician who tries to charm and flatter Streep into delivering the good news of a new offensive action in Afghanistan, batting away any suggestions that there might be a draft coming and declining to dwell on past errors. But Streep looks like she doesn’t buy a word of her character’s apparent transformation from willing servant of a television network to someone who two hours later throws her editor the most hackneyed line – ‘You were good once’ – while refusing to spin in the usual fashion the government story fed to her by Cruise. Are we meant to believe that this woman who writes features for Time magazine and is a leading American journalist with decades of experience is only jolted into chronic self-doubt and able finally to see that television networks may push a populist agenda after an unexceptional hour-long conversation with a senator about a quite unremarkable foreign policy development? I know Tom Cruise is meant to be charming, but come on... The look on Streep’s face says it all: unconvinced. When she steps out of an anonymous government building in Washington, we’re supposed to recall ‘All The President’s Men’. That film puts this nonsense to shame.

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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Nov 9, 2007

Duration:

91 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

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Catalyst1

Those that don't understand this film are the people that would be represented by Tom Cruise. Stupid, ambitious and above all Trevor Johnson. Time Out really got their monies worth with this fool!

Catalyst1

Those that don't understand this film are the people that would be represented by Tom Cruise. Stupid, ambitious and above all Trevor Johnson. Time Out really got their monies worth with this fool!

Anne Marie

It is not a new thing for young men to be duped into going to war, it has been happening for centuries. The army were at my son's Primary school teaching the children to march, and they had not even consulted the parents beforehand. I think the job of the army is to defend us against attack, but not to interfere in the poltics of other countries. You do not see the Australians or the Swedish getting involved the way America and Britain do. There are lots of evil regimes in the world and the way to deal with them is to shame them in the way that apartheid was shamed. But blasting people with rockets is really not a civilised way to behave, and makes us no better than them. This was a very unusual film and perhaps the reason people do not like it us because they expect special effects and explosions and car chases. I agree that it was more like a play than a movie, but the script is excellent, as are all the performances. I am glad this movie was made and I hope it provokes people to think about the "war on terror" and whether that is what it really is, or is it just a question of America and Britian protecting their economic interests abroad.

mojo123

this is the worst film ever,its not a triller,documentry,action film,love story,war film,its americans blown there own trumpet about how educated,and more advanced to the rest of us.newsflash...their not

Alison Hudson

Probably the worst movie I've ever seen. It looks like someone gave some big hollywood stars a lot of money to read a school boy's drivel. It is inconceivable that any studio ever released such nonsense. Robert Redford,l have followed you all my movie going career, but this is one I'm just going to forget you had anything to do with. Too mind bloggling bad to contemplate. Don't even buy the DVD.

richard gould

well, i didnt understand the film, i thought that if it was on a saturday, it could have benn much better, but no, it was on a friday .... i mean who do they think i am .... even though i am not part of it, it must be said i am.

Adedeji Olowe

Within the first 15 minutes, this movie, which started with a lot of promise, gets dull and boring. I don't think it is worth the effort of watching it.

Master Mind

An earnest and well-intentioned film which attempts to deal with the problem of how America was duped into a nasty and seemingly endless war. Trouble is, the people who have by now realised that they were duped will find nothing new here. And those who still do not realise they were duped do not go to see this type of film. I admire Redford and I hear he put a lot of his own money into this film. This must be another proof of the man's decency and altruism, Unfortunately altruism alone does not make good films and this one is stagey, lacking in drama and somewhat tedious in parts. Meryle and Tom put on a good show but, being boxed into a room all the time, their potential is wasted. Full marks to Robert, but low marks for his film. It just doesn't work.

mastermind

A very earnest film with excellent intentions. To wit: the Iraq war is an endless quagmire and unless we (the American public) wake up to that there's no end in sight. Also, we (the American press and the the American public) were duped once before so we should not believe in 'new strategies announced by politicians during the run up to electionor we will end up getting duped again. And so on. Thing is, those who already know they were duped won't find anything new here. And those who do not know they were duped do not go to see a film like this. I admire Redford and I'm told he put a lot of his own money into this and this must be another good mark towads his reputation for altruism. Unfortunately altruism alone doesn't make good films and this one is static and sometimes quite boring and ultimately leaves one thinking that it is just another hand-wringing exercise by the Americans on the theme of 'how could we, such a kind and loving people, have gotten ourselves into such a nasty mess'. 'The Deerhunter', Platoon' and other films had a similar theme but made far better use of it. So, full marks to Robert (and Meryle and Tom certainly do their best), but not a good film.

zane

This film is worth seeing for Meryl Streep's performance which was incredible. Contrary to what some fellow reviewers have written, the film was interesting and emotionally and intellectually gripping. This perhaps is not the type of film for the person who wants to see a film to be entertained but more for the person who has an interest in political issues and great performances. Cruise was convincing as a charismatic Senator and Redford had some thought provoking lines.

zane

This film is worth seeing for Meryl Streep's performance which was incredible. Contrary to what some fellow reviewers have written, the film was interesting and emotionally and intellectually gripping. This perhaps is not the type of film for the person who wants to see a film to be entertained but more for the person who has an interest in political issues and great performances. Cruise was convincing as a charismatic Senator and Redford had some thought provoking lines.

mary-anne

This is not a good film. If you want a film that's interesting, engaging, gripping or anything else that's positive, go and see something else. If you want a film you can fidget in, get bored in, consider leaving - repeatedly - and come out saying, 'That was really rubbish', then this is the film for you. Quite a Republican film, lots of references to 'the axis of evil', and 'they attacked us first' - Afghanistan, apparently; if George Bush didn't write this film he certainly approved the script, wholeheartedly. Nothing much happens, zero on the tension front, seen more gripping breakfast cereals. Good performances from Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise and Robert Redford, either they were fed Rohypnol when they agreed to do the film or they're closet Republicans or half the film was cut out. Though, finally, after an hour and a half's waiting and without warning a really good thing did happen, it ended. You have been warned.

Keith Duckworth

Worst film that I have seen this year bar none! Tom Cruise was unconvincing as a Senator and I didn't feel that I was being entertained. After half an hour I could have happily walked out of the cinema.