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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.56%
Worth A Look27.87%
Average: 24.59%
Pretty Bad: 26.23%
Total Crap: 14.75%

6 reviews, 25 user ratings

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Lions for Lambs
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by Lybarger

"The film that answers the question, “What is the road to Hell paved with?”"
2 stars

With ‘Lions for Lambs,’ actor-producer-director Robert Redford wears his heart on his sleeve. If he had put his brain there as well, he might have made a real movie.

Instead, Redford handles a delicate subject, the Global War on Terror, with brass knuckles instead of kid gloves. He’s so eager to condemn the war and public apathy about it that he abandons the low-key storytelling techniques he used in “A River Runs Through It” and “Quiz Show.”

It’s as Redford trusted his audience so little that he felt the only way to reach them was through stridency. The ideological discussions that form “Lions for Lambs” sound like a weak parody of Socratic dialogues, where one side of a debate is hopelessly outmatched by the other.

Screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan doesn’t write dialogue as much as he seems to be plagiarizing Sunday morning talk shows. The film opens with a long exchange between the young, hawkish Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) and the skeptical reporter named Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), who’s been granted a rare one-on-one with him.

Irving claims to be offering her a rare scoop about an accelerated offensive in Afghanistan that will break the Taliban once and for all. Roth, however, remembers echoes of this strategy when she was covering Vietnam.

Streep is in typically fine form and easily upstages her costar. It doesn’t help that Carnahan has stuck Cruise with a character who’s little more than a caricature of every hawk in Washington.

If the scene played more like a real interview, the story might have brimmed with tension. But because Irving has little more to offer than worn-out talking points earnestly delivered by Cruise, the film becomes more of a dull putdown than a debate.

While Irving and Roth are chatting away, a pair of soldiers stationed in Afghanistan (Derek Luke and Michael Peña) become separated from their unit. The two wind up on a freezing mountain, hoping that they’ll be rescued before some fierce Taliban come to capture or attack them.

Meanwhile, a frustrated college professor (Redford) tries to convince a bright but unmotivated student (Andrew Garfield) to take more interest in his studies and his community.

Redford made a serious mistake by casting himself as the instructor. When he chides his pupil, he looks straight into the camera and seems to be lecturing the audience for not caring. Even though “Lions for Lambs” is only 88 minutes, this gets old quickly.

The big problem with “Lions for Lambs” is that it doesn’t provide viewers with any content they haven’t encountered before. Nobody in the film says anything that hasn’t been uttered before in a newscast. As a result, an important subject gets only the same cursory sound bite coverage that CNN and Fox offer.

The lack of real characters makes things worse. Only Streep manages to become something more than a mouth piece. It’s impossible to get invested in the film because none of the characters seem real enough to be compelling.

Fortunately, there have already been a series of terrific movies that have already been made about the current war, most of them are documentaries. For example, the Oscar-nominated “My Country, My Country” is an absorbing look at the Iraq conflict from the perspective of a Sunni Iraqi doctor campaigning for parliament, and “Gunner Palace” is a harrowing and often darkly funny look at the streets for Baghdad from a soldier’s point of view.

Both of these movies, which are easily available on DVD, are more engaging than “Lions for Lambs,” in part because they offer fresh, first-hand perspectives on the conflict that Redford’s film lacks.

“Lions for Lambs” is certainly earnest in its denunciation of how our current war is being conducted. But because it has nothing new or substantial to bring to the subject, it makes the indifferent student seem like the smartest person in the film. Good intentions by themselves are just as bad as indifference.

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originally posted: 11/09/07 22:00:00
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User Comments

12/08/17 morris campbell interesting film 4 stars
12/22/09 mr.mike I don't agree with it's politics but Redford keeps it from being overly stagy. 3 stars
2/05/09 Faraz J I likde Redford and Cruise. But the movie wa too much talkie talkie. Here to have fun dude. 1 stars
4/06/08 Arcane Excellent movie. Excellent acting. Should be watched. 5 stars
1/25/08 Gretchen Seitz Cruise's accidental portrayal of unintended protagonist can't save film from endinglessness 2 stars
1/25/08 Courtney (almost as bad as tennis elbow) Unappealing leftist propaganda masquerades as war suspense film until lack-of-ending. 2 stars
1/08/08 Double M Mr. Redford, the "wtf-is-a-debate?" crowd wants The Patriot. Make dumb blockbusters instead 4 stars
11/29/07 Abhishek Chakraborty Damit. I wasted my money seeing this film. I wish I'd read efilmcritic first 2 stars
11/24/07 LABELESS worthseeing. Redford is a much needed voice 5 stars
11/19/07 WillReadmore One election didn't fix everything. So don't vote? GenX=wimp. 4 stars
11/14/07 deidre It was intense and if the viewer was not mentally lazy had very healthy messages 4 stars
11/14/07 Joe Smaltz I'm already anti-war, the movie draged, and was very predictable. Needed some tobasco. 3 stars
11/14/07 Hotshot This film sucks ass! Don't waste your money... 1 stars
11/14/07 D If i want to be preached to I will go to church! 1 stars
11/14/07 Naurto No, it's more like you have to be a really dull person to "get" the film. 1 stars
11/14/07 JHensley This was an excellent film. If you don't get it, you're the problem. 4 stars
11/13/07 Debra Sine I am democrat, however, I still love my Country. Save your money. 1 stars
11/13/07 cbid So much wasted potential with this movie's theme. Hollywood writers should stay on stike 3 stars
11/13/07 Lou Redford is a bore, Cruise is a fool 1 stars
11/12/07 Neddymac Provocativismo! Bravo for the thought stimulation! 5 stars
11/12/07 Eva I guess you have to be over 40 to 'get' the film 5 stars
11/12/07 Realist No one wants to see a movie portraying out military as a bumch of losers. 1 stars
11/12/07 DonnyM What a joke film. 1 stars
11/10/07 Chugger This blows so hard and I'm a Democrat 1 stars
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  09-Nov-2007 (R)
  DVD: 08-Apr-2008



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