Robert Redford (A River Runs Through It) offers his latest directorial effort in Lions for Lambs, a thought-provoking and slightly biased persepctive on the war in Iraq and U.S. foreign policy. The film presents three viewpoints, each substory illustrating a different message.
Redford is featured as a college professor who attempts to encourage a promising but disillusioned student to take a more proactive role in his life and in the lives of others. The second dynamic presented in the movie is an exchange between characters portrayed by Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada) and Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible: III). Streep is reporter Janine Roth, and she’s landed an exclusive interview with a rising star in the Republican party and staunch supporter of the war, Senator Jasper Irving. His name is Jasper. *snicker* Anyway, Irving pretty much spoon-feeds Roth his pro-war rhetoric, spinning the story every step of the way. He wants to unveil a new strategy in the war on terror, which brings us to the third and final perspective in the movie, that of two soldiers on the ground in Iraq. Derek Luke (Catch a Fire) and Michael Pena (Crash, Shooter) are Arian and Earnest, two bright, brave young soldiers who are part of a military unit charged with executing the first step in the new strategy being pushed by Senator Irving. So there’s the connection to the Streep-Cruise part of the movie. Earnest and Arian are also former students of Redford’s professor. Thus the three stories are loosely interconnected, and each perspective exalts a different moral lesson. The ideas most notably put forth by Redford are the notions that ill-conceived military operations and wars exploit and waste the lives of our best and brightest, and that this continues because most of us are sheep, and the few of us that aren’t don’t care enough to get involved. (this explains the title, do you get it? the soldiers are the lions and our faceless government and its scores of minions are the lambs). Simple enough, and not exactly groundbreaking. I oversimplified it a bit, but that’s it in a nutshell.
What makes Lions a thought-provoking movie is that it inevitably challenges the viewer to ask him/herself where exactly they fall on the spectrum. It also examines the nobility of soldiers fighting a less-than-honorable war and presents the notion that doing something is better than doing nothing and talking about it. On that note, Redford is to be commended for creating a film that unabashedly disapproves of the war in Iraq but lauds the reasons why extraordinary individuals are compelled to contribute. Some may find the film to be rather heavy-handed in its execution, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Lions for Lambs is a thoughtful, quietly entertaining film. A political movie with a message, it’s not for those with short attention spans, but the more mature moviegoer should find it enjoyable.