Want to see pretty people try their hand at boring Sunday morning political punditry? Then see this movie.
With a cast that includes heavy-hitters like Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, a story about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Robert Redford at the helm, it is no surprise why Lions for Lambs has been targeted as the next great Oscar contender by the Hollywood machine. Let's put that rumor to bed right now, shall we?
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom), Lions for Lambs follows three interrelated groups of people as events unfold in three different parts of the world. In Washington, D.C., shining hope for the Republican party Senator Jasper Irving (Cruise) details his new war strategy to political journalist Janine Roth (Streep); at a prestigious California university, aging poli-sci professor Stephen Malley (Redford) tries to get a slacking student (Andrew Garfield) to live up to his potential; and in Afghanistan, two of Malley's former students struggle for their lives in the heat of combat.
Lions for Lambs sounds promising enough, and for the first few minutes it seems like it might deliver--smart dialog, good acting, gripping subject matter. But then, slowly, you suffer the creeping realization that nothing is going to happen. Nothing. For 88 minutes (I can't believe it was only 88 minutes), you are held captive in the theater watching talking heads yammer about every which angle of the current war debate, desperately wishing it would cut to the Afghanistan plot because at least it holds the possibility of action. Unfortunately, you get very, very little of that in this dull disappointment of a film. And without going into too much detail, let's just say that not only did I find the end unsatisfying, it actually made me angry.
I will say that the casting for Lions for Lambs is impeccable. Cruise is absolutely the right choice for the favorite son senator who uses his looks to charm his way up the political chain, and he does it right. And as trite as it may sound, Streep is amazing--taking the flat role of 'journalist' and giving her personality nuance and depth. But no matter how good the actors are, or how necessary and valid the issues it raises, the bottom line is that you go to the movies for visuals, for story, for action. You can couch the conversations in the guise of a professor and a student or a politician and a journalist, but it's still just a conversation. And if I wanted to see that, I'd turn on the Sunday morning political shows and save myself the $10 ticket price and the stomach-ache from eating too much popcorn, which is exactly what I recommend you do.