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"Lions for Lambs"

Directed by Robert Redford.
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan.
Starring Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise and Andrew Garfield.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  11/12/07


"Lions for Lambs" is strangely ordinary, given the pedigree of the people involved in the film...and, as a multi-story arc that centers on differing viewpoints of the war in Iraq, I was surprised that the film doesn't really shed any new light on what we already know about the nation's struggles during this important window of time.

We get three stories that all take place during the same one hour of one day in different parts of the world.  In California, a professor (Robert Redford) tries to convince one of his students (Andrew Garfield) to maximize his potential, not unlike two of his former students (Derek Luke and Michael Peña) from recent classes.  In Washington, Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise), a GOP senator who is implementing a new plan of attack in Afghanistan, allows a reporter (Meryl Streep) who helped Irving gain national attention when he first gained office learn about a potential scoop which could put her news division back on the map.  And, in Afghanistan, those former prize students (again, Luke and Peña) lead a platoon of Special Forces soldiers on a mission that was approved by Irving's master planners.

The segment that I thought worked the best was the professor/student dialogue between Redford and Garfield; it comes off as realistic (of course, this hotshot student thinks that despite his potential, he can't have an influence on the world) but not too preachy from the professor's side...and, he makes good points to the student about his chances of affecting the world, on and on and on.  It flashes back to some of the student's classes, as well as a presentation that the two soldiers made back when they were in the professor's class...all of this works reasonably well.  It won't blow you away but at least it comes off as a realistic approach to what teachers everywhere are struggling with when it comes to keeping kids focused on the real world in poly-sci classes.

However, the other two pieces don't work as well.  The Streep/Cruise piece has the most potential and it is never fully realized; of course the senator is trying to sell policy to any news organization that is buying and he knows how much of a pounding the GOP has taken in recent the Streep character says throughout, we can never really buy into something we can't trust, and at no point did I get the impression that this senator was genuine, hence, this is nothing really out of the blue!  It doesn't help that I never really got the "Streep/Cruise is in top form" feeling during their scenes together.  And, the war segment with our two leads falling out of a helicopter while a rescue attempt is being mounted back at a base...this was just bad.  Peter Berg just isn't the right fit for this HUU-AAA!!! tough barking sergeant type of character (he plays the guy that is leading the rescue attempt); the scenes with Luke and Peña disabled in the mountains while being pursued by Afghani soldiers don't work and look REALLY low-budget; hell, at one point, it looks like the two guys are playing paddycake while in the chopper, not something that you would imagine tough-guy soldiers to be doing while flying over a potentially hot landing zone.

"Lions for Lambs" is disappointing, not because it is so awful as much as it doesn't really rise above a poor movie pack this Oscar season.  At least it was over after 90 minutes!

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09