Movie Review: LIONS FOR LAMBS (2007)
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Directed by Robert Redford, LIONS FOR LAMBS is a political drama dealing with topics in post 9/11 America. Made in 2007, a year before the election of current U.S. President Barrack Obama, the film largely discusses the Country’s actions and attitudes regarding the “War On Terror” 6 years after the most devastating terrorist attack in history. The film’s narrative is split into 3 different portions, each connecting in a small way, while showcasing 3 distinct angles of the same topic.
The movie begins with Meryll Streep’s character, an experienced journalist, being granted an audience with an up and coming Senator, played by Tom Cruise. The Senator, Irving, has called the journalist he so admires, to give her an exclusive story regarding a new strategy in Afghanistan, that will win the war. He promises her a no holds barred, honest and news-worthy story, that will look to the future and provide the American people with a plan to achieve a victory over the current terrorist threat, conditional that Streep’s Janine be able to sell the story to the public. What follows is a very stark conversation between the two regarding the government’s mistakes since 2001, the Media’s treatment of it, and how both have been detrimental to the Nation’s capability to handle the threat. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a largely dialogue heavy movie, not much happens.
Concurrently to the scenes of Irving’s interview with Janine, we actually get to see the Military in action, implementing the strategy being outlined by the Senator. Specifically two soldiers played by Michael Pena & Derek Luke. Their story follows them as their plane gets attacked over enemy territory and they fall out of the plane, and land injured in hostile areas. The rest is all about their survival as they are pinned down, and a rescue is attempted. It’s not riveting stuff, but at the same time it’s enjoyable as it showcases the grit and determination of two soldiers. As exciting as the Military sequences in this portion was, it felt a little anticlimactic near the end. Also wasn’t sure what the message was supposed to be regarding these two soldiers. Expecially given the insight we get from the third and final narrative that runs throughout the movie.
Before any sort of claim to fame as Spider-Man or his performance in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, Andrew Garfield is seen here as a gifted yet slacker college student, getting a talking to from his Political Science Professor, played by Robert Redford himself. Starting off as completely disconnected from the other two stories, this segment quickly connects to the rest of the plot, and is probably the best one of the whole movie. Garfield has lost faith in the system and politics, contributing to his lack of interest in class, prompting his professor, Redford, to provide him with two examples of other students he had with potential, who ended up joining the Army to follow through with their principles; the same soldiers injured behind enemy lines. Redford’s character describes how those two understood the system, and decided to act on their principles by joining the Army and participating in the actions to change their nation, in however trivial a manner. The point of this is completely lost by the end of LIONS FOR LAMBS, given the fate of the characters.
LIONS FOR LAMBS is more a narrative than a story, as it doesn’t really focus on any sort of thing… happening. It’s more about an ideology being expressed from various perspectives by a few characters. It’s definitely interesting due to simply the topics being discussed and the completely engaging manner in which they are being portrayed. But at the end of the movie, despite the ambiguously open ended and maybe uplifting climax, nothing happens. The little that does happen, have no repercussions or consequences to the audience, or the characters’ lives, when we even find out the ultimate outcome. The characters, despite being very well written, have no closure by the time the story ends. There is quite literally, nothing happening.
This isn’t to say that the movie isn’t good. The dialogue is what drives a movie of this caliber. It’s intelligently well paced and the editing is done very well, with a few missteps here and there. The performances are impeccable. Meryll Streep takes it away as a veteran journalist, who is still passionate about her career. Tom Cruise very rarely in his career has played characters that aren’t blatantly the hero, except here, in LIONS FOR LAMBS. Despite a charmingly impressive role, he exists in a shade of grey, which again, is never quite resolved by the end. Redford is amazing as always, but the surprise here was Andrew Garfield. It’s hard to realize that this role was before any of the ones that got him recognized, yet his quality of performance in this was brilliant. In scenes mostly with Redford himself, Garfield never stutters or is overshadowed by that fact.
Everything about LIONS FOR LAMBS is top notch, from the execution and the dialogue and the amazingly well done performances. It’s a talking movie about politics, terrorism and the ethical and moral standpoints that come with either and opposing sides of the same arguments. It may be very boring to some if there is not an inherent interest in the subject matter. However, the movie itself focuses more on the issue and subject matter than the characters or their stories. Nothing is resolved, no one grows and ultimately… nothing happens.