Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lions for Lambs

“Lions for Lambs” is a well-intentioned but ultimately flawed film. It’s by no means a bad film, but its one of the most uncinematic films I’ve seen in a long time. Often times it reminded me of a filmed stage play.

The latest directorial effort from Robert Redford, “Lions for Lambs” juggles three distinct storylines. In one, liberal college professor Robert Redford tries to talk a gifted but apathetic student (Andrew Garfield) out of wasting his time in college.

Redford points to two students (Derek Luke and Michael Pena) in his political science class who overcame poor backgrounds to make successes for themselves in college. They are inspired by Redford to do something with their lives, so they join the army to fight the War on Terror overseas. Redford is horrified that his classes may have influenced these two to enlist.

The second story shows these two as soldiers, stranded on a mountaintop after a disastrous mission in Afghanistan. They are surrounded by the enemy as the Army attempts to mount a rescue operation.

The third has Republican Senator Tom Cruise giving an interview to journalist Meryl Streep about why fighting the War on Terror overseas is so essential to this country’s survival.

(An observational note here. I saw this the other night at the great Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove, which still has a marquee. I was amused to see Redford’s and Streep’s name on the marquee, but not Cruise’s. Is he that much of a turnoff to people? Who could have foreseen this even two years ago?)

Here goes my Tom Cruise defense. This segment of the film was my favorite because Cruise gives the best performance. And why not? He’s a fine actor, always has been. I don’t care about his personal life or his religious beliefs. When I go to the movies, I want him to give the best performance he is capable of giving and that’s all. Here he delivers one of his very best here. Often charmingly contemptuous towards Streep, his arguments are well-reasoned.

So more than one side of the argument is presented, which I thought was the right approach. Redford is good too. He has that quiet authority he has gained after more than 40 years in movies and can hold a scene like few can.

Like I said it’s not a bad movie. It’s just there. The writing is smart, but I can’t see it changing the opinions of anyone. It does have the good grace to be over and done with in 90 minutes, which is always admirable.

Special mention must be made of red-haired Christopher Carley, who takes a lead role during a classroom debate with the two soldiers. He is the cousin of my co-worker Van Giles and does a fine job. I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.
Rating for "Lions for Lambs": Two and a half stars.

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