Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan
Directed by Robert Redford
Running Time: 1:32
for war violence and language.
Watching Lions for Lambs I couldn't help but wonder when I had last been so thoroughly bored during a 90 minute film.
There are three stories running concurrently and almost in real time during the film. Veteran reporter Janine Roth is invited to the offices of up-and-coming Republican Senator Jasper Irving as he discusses a new plan for the war in the Middle East. Is it all just a big whitewash? Or does the Senator actually have a plan that can work? Meanwhile, Professor Stephen Malley sits in his office discussing the future of one his students. He tells the story of two former students who may have not been the best, but they were the brightest. And halfway across the world, two soldiers are trapped on a mountaintop trying to survive in the middle of a deathtrap while politicians sit in their cozy offices and decide whether or not these soldiers live or die.
First off let me say that for 89 out of the 92 minutes of this film, virtually nothing happens. Those 89 minutes are spent watching two (or sometimes 3) people have a conversation. For 3 minutes we get to see a helicopter in action. So if you get sucked in by the commercials touting this as a political thriller, you're going to be very disappointed. This is a political drama, but not a very compelling one. There are political films that can be very engaging even if there isn't a lot of action on film. This is not one of those films. Watching 3 highly talented actions sit for 90 minutes and talk in circles does not make for entertainment. As one of my friends pointed out after watching the movie, this would have made a very good stage play. And he was right. I could easily see this taking place on a small stage off-Broadway with some no-name actors really getting into their roles. But when you have Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in a film, you want to see them chew the scenery. Instead they all sit there, talking amongst themselves, but not really saying anything.
We are now years into the war in Afghanistan/Iraq and dangerously on the edge of a war in Iran. The points and counterpoints for getting into war or staying out of it have been discussed ad nauseum for all of those years and by this point most people have chosen a side. What we don't need is a movie to rehash every one of those points without choosing a side. I'm not here to say either side is correct, but to watch a movie where no one decides anything and instead says the same thing we can see on Sunday morning talk shows, isn't very interesting. Had they decided to pick a point of view and run with it, this could have been better because right or wrong, at least the movie would stand for something.
I will now run down every location the three major actors filmed in. Tom Cruise - spent the entire movie in his office. Meryl Streep - was either in Cruise's office, her office, or the back of a cab. There was at least one scene where she was outside, running to catch a cab. Robert Redford - was either in his office, a classroom or a restaurant. Now tell me this, when was the last time you could actually recall every location for 3 actors? Is that not more proof that almost nothing happens in the movie? The only things that saved this movie from being a complete disaster were the performances of two actors who don't get mentioned in commercials. Michael Peņa and Derek Luke play the two soldiers who signed up for the war because they wanted to make a difference. There is a mishap early in the film and they're stranded on a snowy mountaintop with enemy soldiers trying to kill them. We flash back into their pasts while seeing their present and in every instance they bring a real honor to their roles. They were characters that I actually cared about. They were true counterpoints to the talking heads in the rest of the film, but unfortunately, they're not the 'stars' of the film so their screentime was less than the big three. This is a real shame because a movie that focused on them could have been great. Instead they were the lesser of three stories and not on screen nearly enough to save the film from itself.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I was not impressed with Lions for Lambs. It had a lot of conversations about nothing and considering the star power behind it, didn't offer anything worthwhile.
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