Monday, September 7, 2009

Lions For Lambs

Lions For Lambs presents an overlapping drama that follows three story lines. The film attempts to challenge the conduct of the "War on Terror" through by tracking dialogue between a reporter and rising Senator, a Professor and a promising student, and two students who previously studied under the professor, who are involved in escalating operations in Afghanistan. The intertwining stories attempt to take an anti-war stance in a rather sophomoric plot that seems more preachy than touching. This film would have been more effective using a subtle message than to stand on a soapbox the way that this film manages to do. I watched it for entertainment...if I want a sermon, I can go to church for free.

There are several problems with the plot. The most glaring issue is the ending, which was both anti-climactic as well as boring. It seemed the writers used an unimaginative ending that was intended to be thought provoking in one aspect, and cliche in another. The ending left me wondering why I wasted 88 minutes on an unintelligent, unoriginal propaganda piece. The dialogue was okay at times, and utterly boring at others. The acting was shockingly bad. The major actors were upstaged by their unknown counterparts in this film. The segments that focused on the professor (Robert Redford) and his prize student (Andrew Garfield) felt more like an after school special than anything. However, Garfield was surprisingly likable and sharp in his role. The storyline between the Senator (Tom Cruise) and reporter (Meryl Streep) was a yawner...I've seen soap operas with more meat to them. Streep delivered on the emotional aspects surrounding her own inner turmoil, but the script left her with very little else to work with. The best segments surrounded the action in Afghanistan between friends (Michael Pena and Derek Luke). Although the special effects were laughable, the interaction between these two young actors was excellent. They were the bright spot in an otherwise forgettable film.

Lions For Lambs attempts to bring home the human side of the war through the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. But Director Robert Redford and writer Matthew Michael Carnahan spent too much energy focused on the message and missed the opportunity to develop the action in Afghanistan. The two characters seemed genuine, with a back story that provided some depth to the characters, as well. The briefing room scene felt authentic and started to draw me in at the beginning of the film. But once the pair get on a helicopter, the opportunity seemed squandered. The action sequences were incredibly fake as was one characters decision to jump out of a helicopter in the middle of the mountains. No way. No how. The fact that he lands feet from his friend (and they both live) is even harder to swallow. The scenery for the rest of the action in Afghanistan seems like a bad Hollywood set. The low lighting was incapable of adding any realism to the scene. The ending of that segment was even harder to accept. Things just don't happen that way. The fact that Redford included induction notices for the two...when the draft hasn't been around for decades was another not-so-subtle attempt to engage in hyperbole.

The storyline involving Redford was preachy and a bit condescending. Although Redford's character (Professor Malley) claims to encourage free thinking and stimulate discussion (which was a major theme in this that it failed to observe)...his comments about the two soldiers in Afghanistan are a bit disturbing. Malley passes judgment on the two, summarizing their decision as a mistake...a wrong path chosen...and he accepts some of the "blame" for their decision. What is wrong with wanting to serve your country or make a decision to join the military. Many people would not consider that decision a "mistake," they would consider it patriotic or heroic. The judgmental language with no attempt at balance undermined the entire train of thought. The quality of the writing and video in this segment felt like an after school special. I disliked almost everything about that entire section of the movie.

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