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Lions for Lambs

November 8, 2007  |  10:00am
Lions for Lambs

Release Date: Nov. 9
Director: Robert Redford
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot
Starring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise
Studio/Run Time: United Artists, 88 mins.

Between his artistic achievements and his activism, it's no stretch to call Robert Redford a great man. You want to see him succeed. Unfortunately, though, success is not the case when he tries to mix these two interests, resulting here in a film that's both cinematically disappointing and unconvincing as a piece of propaganda for the liberal view he's espousing.

Lions for Lambs is divided quite distinctly into three sections. In the first, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep's characters debate a new plan in Afghanistan and the role of politicians and the media; in the next, Redford plays a professor trying to raise a student's political awareness; and in the final, two soldiers are ambushed and killed when their helicopter is shot down. The juxtaposition of these three plots causes a wildly inconsistent tone that forbids the audience from ever fully getting into one scene before the next begins. Likewise, each subplot never goes beyond surface characterization.

But the film's most distressing flaw is just how painfully incorrect each of these plots is. It seems like rather than researching what any soldier, journalist, or even politician actually talks like, the scenes were instead based on how these people talk and act on television and in other films.

While two thirds of the movie is just characters in conversation, which in the right hands isn't bad (Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino can make dialogue as riveting as any action sequence), the problem is that their "debates" aren't really debates at all. It's clear at all times who is the good guy and who is the bad guy at any point in the film, leaving the characters preaching to the choir throughout their dialogues. This turns most of the film into an after-school special, with the audience being told what's correct rather than, say, learning to understand the situation through the characters' decisions and consequences.

It's likely that this film will find a substantial audience, since there are always people out there looking to merely reaffirm their beliefs rather than challenging or questioning them. But for the rest of us who think that a piece of cinema should be more than that, Lions for Lambs leaves us feeling empty rather than sparked by the zeitgeist the film attempts to capture.

View the trailer for Lions for Lambs below:

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