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LIONS FOR LAMBS by Robert Redford


Jasper Irving, a hotshot Republican senator (Tom Cruise) tries to sweettalk seasoned reporter Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) into selling his newest strategy in Afghanistan to the public (even if it’s in fact a strategy that already failed in Vietnam), surprisingly admitting that mistakes have been made – and then reminding the reporter that the media has made their share of mistakes, too, and that they are just as responsible for the “War on Terror” as the government. Janine will have to make a decision – being the mouthpiece of the senator, or losing her job.

At the same time, two young soldiers (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) are stranded on a mountain in Afghanistan after a helicopter crash. Their assignment was part of senator Irving’s strategy – taking the mountaintops with small platoons before the Taliban can. One of them is wounded and can’t walk, and enemy fighters are closing in on them. They will be out of ammunition before the rescue helicopter can be there. The soldiers, Ernest Rodriguez and Arian Finch, have made their decision already – students of Professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford), they have decided to put their money where their mouth is and have enlisted for the US Army to do something meaningful with their lives (and to earn enough money for a decent education).

Professor Malley, having served in Vietnam himself, was unhappy with their decision, but has respected it. And while his two students are fighting for their lives on that snow-covered mountaintop, Malley deals with another student. Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield) is brilliant and comes from a wealthy family, but Malley has noted that Todd seems to have lost interest in his studies. Todd tries to explain his his recent lack of dedication with other priorities – his girlfriend and his fraternity, but Malley isn’t fooled that easily. After some prodding Malley confronts Todd with the truth – Todd has lost his idealism because he thinks one man can make no difference.
Malley tries to convince him otherwise – the problems of the country are not caused by the government, they are caused by the people – the people who have stopped to care, to think for themselves, to participate and to take responsibility. It’s time for Todd to decide what he will do with his life – and even no decision is a decision.

Lions for Lambs was dismissed by many critics as just another left-wing rant against the Republicans and the “War on Terror”, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Strip away the politics and it’s a film about decisions and personal responsibility – talky, yes, and slow, and a clunky “action” segment, and the last reel of the movie seems to be missing, but Robert Redford still has got plenty of star wattage as an actor, and decent skills as a director.
It would be interesting to see what the critics would have said hadn’t Lions for Lambs been made by “Hollywood’s notorious lefties” but by some unknown independent filmmakers …
So do you take for granted what the majority of the critics say and stay out of this movie? Or do you watch it and make up your own mind? It’s your decision!

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