Lions For Lambs

post-lions1.jpgIt’s no surprise that Lions for Lambs, Hollywood’s latest anti-U.S. stab at propaganda, is a preachy mess. It’s directed by ultra-liberal Robert Redford at a time when Hollywood is desperately trying to be politically significant with their pop culture commentary. Sadly, like its predecessors, this film fails more out of boredom than message. Actually, a more appropriate title for Lions for Lambs could be Lamenting for Liberals.

This disastrous snoozefest features endless scenes of people talking, bridged by a handful of would-be action scenes in Afghanistan. The story follows two Army Rangers who are shot down in the Afghan mountains. This is part of plucky Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise), who is desperately trying to convince a reporter (Meryl Streep) that his military plan is a good one.

Meanwhile, at “A California University” (no joke, this is actually what it is ambiguously called in the film), director Robert Redford plays a professor trying to convince a failing student to stop being a slacker and become an intellectual like himself.

This is the latest in a string of political posturing from Hollywood, and none of these movies have been anything more than a disappointment – with the exception of The Kingdom, which was arguably more like CSI: Riyadh than actually an intellectual political film. Only a few weeks ago, Rendition opened at a dismal ninth during a weekend where the top film grossed only $16.5 million.

I don’t think people are necessarily tired of the war. They’re just sick of hearing about it. It’s all over cable news, permeating network newsbreaks, in papers, on the radio, on the Yahoo splash page when you check your frakking email and even when you sign onto to MobileWeb account from your cell phone. It doesn’t help that these movies haven’t been particularly well made, regardless of political position.

The biggest sin that Redford commits in his directorial disaster is not just to preach to the audience, but to scold them as well. There’s one key scene near the end of the movie where both Redford and Meryl Streep launch into a diatribe about how the real culprits aren’t the Republicans in office (since they are too far gone for forgiveness, after all), but us because we just sit around and let it happen.

While Redford is trying to be topical and significant, he insults his audience. I can’t stand being preached at in a film – whether I agree with the message or not. But what’s even worse than that is to be scolded for not agreeing with the director.

Well, to that, I say, shame on you, Robert Redford. Shame on you for making such a boring movie. Shame on you for ramming your political message down our throats with boring talking heads. Shame on you for being so self-righteous that you can’t fathom a thinking person with a dissenting opinion. And shame on you for the way you paint our men and women in uniform as clueless airheads with pie-in-the-sky dreams.

The worst part about this film is that you can’t blame the incompetent filmmaking on a green director with no experience. No, Redford is a phenomenal director, and he should know better.

Sadly, Lions for Lambs is the flagship launch for United Artist under the regime of Tom Cruise. His ego is displayed in this film with plenty of close-ups and a pretentious starring role. If this is the sign of what is to come from United Artists, I have to say that Paramount made the right decision to drop this wacko Scientologist before he did too much damage to their business.

The only saving grave of Lions for Lambs is its merciful 88-minute running time. Of course, that didn’t stop the movie from feeling like it clocked in a 2 1/2 hours. Still, when its butting head with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford for the most boring film of the year, the short screen time makes it at least tolerable.

The Upside: It’s short, thank God.

The Downside: Based on its message alone, it will get more attention than it should.

On the Side: They showed a trailer for Valkyrie before our screening, which features Tom Cruise as a Nazi whose German accent is as impressive as Kevin Costner’s English accent from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Grade: D

Lions for Lambs Poster Release Date: November 9, 2007
Rated: R for some war violence and language.
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Michael Pena, Derek Luke, Peter Berg
Director: Robert Redford
Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Studio: United Artists
Official Website:

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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