Plot: Injuries to two Army rangers on a new military assignment in Afghanistan are all connected to Senator Irving (Tom Cruise), reporter Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) and a political-science professor (Robert Redford).
Who’s it for: There is a little action here, but mainly this film feels like a play with the majority of time being spent with people sitting across a desk from one another.
Expectations: It’s impossible not to respect the careers of Redford (who also directs), Streep and Cruise. It just doesn’t seem that films about the war are really breaking new ground or creating a different debate.
Robert Redford as Professor Stephen Malley: Redford certainly fits the bill as a liberal political-science professor. There is a decent debate between Malley and Todd (Andrew Garfield), his gifted, difficult student.
Tom Cruise as Senator Irving: There are some great parallels between Irving and Cruise. Both seem to be suffering from public opinion and both make strategic moves to fix the PR problem. Everything Irving says comes off as suspect and it’s only heightened because it comes from Cruise. This works to the advantage of “Lions for Lambs.”
Meryl Streep as Janine Roth: For a long time Janine got under my skin because it looks as if she is weak and slowly falling for the charismatic Irving. But as soon as Roth gets back to the office she finally comes to life in a quick debate with her boss.
Talking: There is a lot of social and political commentary going on and if you remember your political-science class from college fondly, then you’ll enjoy listening. But for me it came off a little too staged.
Sights and sounds: The military moments look great and it’s the only thing that requires special effects or elaborate sets. Otherwise this film takes place in Senator Irving’s office or Professor Malley’s.
Best Scene: Here’s the odd thing, because Janine is almost pushed around by Senator Irving, the best scene comes when she leaves the office and we realize she isn’t a walking doormat.
Ending: Get ready for a sudden ending, which is effective for creating the vibe of wanting to discuss the film when done viewing.
Random Thoughts: I’m at the point where I want my political commentary to come from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert because otherwise I’m just left with the lingering feeling that things aren’t getting better yet in this country no matter what a movie dives into.
Rewatchability: Guess where this film will make a home for itself in the future … a high school political-science course seems about right.
“Lions for Lambs” attempts to conquer social, political and military all in the same film, but it doesn’t knock any of them out of the park. The two soldiers, Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Pena), are supposed to be the emotional center of the film, yet it takes too long to find out how they are connected with Redford’s style of jumping timelines and locations.
Overall Grade: 5