When Lions For Lambs was released in cinemas I saw a few clips that piqued my interest. Great acting, that’s all I saw, just great acting. So I was surprised to find that the movie then quickly dropped off the radar for most people. No awards, no lively discussion about it, no real attention paid to it whatsoever. Why? Well, a lot of people mistakenly believe that it’s a politically biased movie and a very anti-American one. While it comments on the attitudes towards America and “the war on terror”, more observant viewers will note that the film simply displays a number of viewpoints and uses the whole situation to really address the biggest problem for many people in the world today – apathy. Thinking yourself to be in the right while not doing anything may be the road to an easy life but it’s nowhere near as useful as running the risk of making mistakes while actually getting involved and trying to make changes for the better.
Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) wants to get a good story out to the press as the war against terror continues so he arranges a meeting with Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) in an attempt to give her an exclusive regarding a new tactic they have decided to use. Michael Pena and Derek Luke play two soldiers involved in the new tactic, overseen by Lt. Col. Falco (Peter Berg). Meanwhile, Professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) talks to student Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield) and offers him a few choices, hoping that he will pull the boy out of his comfort zone of apathy.
The interweaving of these three strands and the time spent with each of the characters reminds audiences of how good a director Robert Redford can be but it’s also not that important. This is a movie more about provoking thought than simply entertaining people enjoying their juice and popcorn. The script, by Matthew Michael Carnahan, manages to leave a lot up to the individual viewer without ever feeling incomplete (though the final moments are, inevitably, less satisfying than any standardised movie climax).
Thankfully, the actors are all up to the task of working with such material and ideas. Cruise and Streep cast large shadows over the entire movie but Redford and Garfield have a number of great moments between them and George Pena and Derek Luke do well despite being in many of the weaker scenes. Peter Berg is very good and Kevin Dunn also does well with his limited time onscreen.
I can’t say that the movie is completely unbiased, that would be wrong, but it’s honest about it and also keeps it in check while making sure that others get all of the information they need. That’s the way I often try to write my movie reviews and it’s an approach I, obviously, think is for the best. Check the film out at some point and make your own mind up about it.
DIRECTOR: ROBERT REDFORD
WRITER: MATTHEW MICHAEL CARNAHAN
STARS: TOM CRUISE, MERYL STREEP, ROBERT REDFORD, ANDREW GARFIELD, MICHAEL PENA, DEREK LUKE, PETER BERG, KEVIN DUNN
RUNTIME: 92 MINS APPROX