Tuesday, November 13, 2007

LIONS FOR LAMBS: More Talk Than Roar

Cast: Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Michael Pena and Derek Luke
Director: Robert Redford
Time: 94 mins
Rating: * * ½ (out of 4)

(Pic: Meryl Streep & Tom Cruise)
The term ‘Lions for Lambs’ is derived from a comment by a German officer in World War I about the bravery of British soldiers (the lions) who were sacrificed in futile attacks on deeply entrenched German troops while their commanders (the lambs) sat in the safety of their bunkers, drinking tea.

This term is referred to in this movie by college professor Dr Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) who hits out at the apathy of the American public towards the so-called ‘War on Terror’, saying: “The problem is not with the people who started this. The problem is with us, all of us, who do nothing.” Well, because of his exhortations, two of his former students, Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke) are stranded in a fire-fight in the snowy mountains of Afghanistan – while he sits evaluating the grades of an unmotivated student named Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield).

Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and directed by Redford, “Lions For Lambs” tries to examine the US War on Terror the way “Babel” did for global communications. However, while “Babel” succeeds in showing the irony in modern human interactions, “Lions For Lambs” only succeeds in being an endless chatter on the American government and its people’s reaction to the war, with nothing significant in terms of conclusion. It’s all talk and very little action.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The movie works on three ‘fronts’ that are linked to one another. In Washington DC, Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) is engaged in an interview with veteran journo Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), telling her about a ‘new strategy’ for an end to the war in Afghanistan. After 30 years in the business, Janine knows she is being used by the Senator to sell his propaganda. Irving’s words are déjà vu to her.

“When is this strategy starting?” Janine asks.
“Ten minutes ago,” the Senator replies. He is referring to the movie’s second ‘front’ – in the mountains of Afghanistan where Rodriguez and Finch are fighting for their lives while being trapped in the snow, waiting for their rescuers.

The third ‘front’ is a university in California where Dr Malley, a Vietnam War veteran, is arguing about ‘people’s responsibility with the cynical Todd…

HITS & MISSES: To be fair, scripter Carnahan offers some interesting insights into the political situation, like the fact that its is the poor and ‘discarded’ people (like Rodriguez and Finch) who readily offer themselves as soldiers rather than the comfortable ‘middle-class’ represented by Todd. This, however, had also been explored by Michael Moore in “Fahrenheit 9/11”. Also, with little in terms of character development, we do not care for opinionated ‘talkers’ like the Senator and the professor. What sustains our interest is the ‘life-and-death’ situation involving Rodriguez and Finch. As soon as their problem is ‘resolved’, the movie starts to sputter.

THE LOWDOWN: For an anti-war film, “Lions For Lambs” recycles familiar ideas instead of finding new grounds. Come to think of it, Rodriguez and Finch are not so much the ‘lions’ of the title but ‘sacrificial lambs’. Which are what we feel like when we walk out of the cineplex after the movie’s abrupt ending.


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