LIONS FOR LAMBS
Presidential hopeful Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) calls TV journalist Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) to his Congressional office to give her an exclusive story about his new war strategy. History professor Dr Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) takes his ace student, Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield) to task, concerned that he is not going to fulfill his potential. Dr Malley recalls two former, similarly talented students, Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Pena), whose debates on action and discussion led them to the battle field in Afghanistan.
Review by Louise Keller:
A passionate plea for honesty, courage and standing up for what you believe in, Lions for Lambs is a powder keg of a film. It's a film to debate and discuss. After all, its key issues are questions raised, not answers given. The backdrop for Robert Redford's hard-hitting drama is the war on terror, but the film is not about the war per se. Screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom) has fused together three individual stories in which the war is relevant. The issues canvassed are dynamite (in political and human interest terms) and lighting the fuse is a task given to three of cinema's top guns.
Tom Cruise is perfectly cast as the immaculately dressed, ambitious politician who has a way with words. 'We do whatever it takes,' he tells Meryl Streep's seasoned journalist, when describing the new war strategy. And the exclusive story Cruise's Senator Jasper Irving about to give Streep's Janine Roth - is it a gift, or propaganda? Only her conscience will decide, as they fling words at each other while jousting amicably. 'Don't confuse majority opinion with the right decision,' he tells her. Far from political schedules and deadlines, Robert Redford's disillusioned history professor is having a different kind of debate, as he gives a pep talk to his most promising, but blasé, student Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield, impressive). 'Is it better to try and fail, or fail to try?'
Integrity and making choices is the focus of the third story, told in real time and flash back, about Dr Malley's former students - Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Pena) - whose decision to make a difference has taken them to the battle front. Like a machine gun taking aim in different directions, we switch our focus as the scenes jump from the senator and the journalist, the professor and his student, and the two idealist soldiers trapped in freezing conditions in enemy territory. The script is wordy and performances are all immaculate with Redford building tension through each story as well as having their cumulative effect. It's an intelligent and affecting film that may not roar, but leaves us with smatterings of hope and despair.
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LIONS FOR LAMBS (M)
CAST: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Peña, Andrew Garfield, Peter Berg, Kevin Dunn, Derek Luke
PRODUCER: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tracy Falco, Andrew Hauptman, Robert Redford
DIRECTOR: Robert Redford
SCRIPT: Matthew Michael Carnahan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot
EDITOR: Joe Hutshing
MUSIC: Mark Isham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jan Roelfs
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 8, 2007