Ken's Review: Lions for Lambs - Like Being Beaten Over the Head
by Ken Evans
November 12, 2007
Robert Redford is not the most amazing director of our time, but he has made a few gems, with my personal favorites being A River Runs Through It and Quiz Show. I quite enjoyed both of those films, especially Quiz Show, which has a place on my all-time favorites list. Unfortunately I can't say much for Redford's most recent directorial attempt, Lions for Lambs. As far as film standards go, it was fine, it was really just the subject matter that I couldn't appreciate.
Lions for Lambs is three different storylines all going on at the same time with flashbacks mixed in. The first storyline is of Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) being interviewed by TV journalist Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) about a new initiative that Irving is putting into place in Afghanistan to win the war. The second storyline is of Professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) trying to inspire his student, Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield), to not only be involved in his political science class but to also be involved in trying to make meaningful changes in society. The third storyline is of two Army Rangers, Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke), who decided to join the Army to try and make a difference. They are the common thread in all the storylines as they are in the group who are going to put in place the initiative set in motion by Senator Irving, and they once attended Prof. Malley's political science class in college.
The dialogue and performances by the actors in Lions for Lambs was top notch. The interaction and debate going on between the characters seemed so genuine. Cruise's character defended the government's decisions while Streep was on the offensive attacking all of the mistakes the government had made. It was truly very interesting and even entertaining watching both sides of the debate and watching the action as the two Army Rangers are sent in with their group to establish a base in the Afghanistan Mountains. Then half way through the movie, I started to get bored and annoyed.
I don't care what side you are on, whether you are for the war or against it. At least present both sides of the debate so that people can make an accurate decision on their own. I thought that was what was happening until half way through. All of a sudden the gears changed and I felt like instead of letting me form my own opinions, I was being hit in the face by one-sided arguments. It went from informative and interesting to propaganda against the war. There should be a warning before the film starts so that people have an idea of what they are getting themselves into. It was like watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth except that at least with that I knew what I was sitting down to watch.
If you have any interest in seeing this film, understand that it is not a war movie. Nor is it by any means an action movie. Its sole purpose is to teach you and hopefully to win you over to its side of the debate. I would have enjoyed this film a lot more if it had continued presenting both sides. I thought The Kingdom and Rendition, although dealing with a different subject, did a good job of not being so blatantly one sided. I don't think this film will sit well with critics or the general audience. Audiences like to make their own decisions based on the facts instead of the director beating them over the head with his own opinion, and that's the inherit problem with Lions for Lambs.