Let’s just get this straight: I didn’t hate “Lions for Lambs” because I disagreed with it. Let’s get this straight too: this is a young anti-war, anti-imperialism activist speaking. I think George Bush is an idiot and that for the love of God, he should send the boys home.
That said, don’t even bother watching this pompous, self-indulgent, self-important, extremely tiresome movie that even the luminous Meryl Streep cannot save.
I had a sinking feeling in my stomach when the opening credits started to roll by showing graphs and tables of the current President’s approval rating and survey results of the public pulse on the War on Terror (with the camera lingering longer than necessary on the title that says “Survey on the War on Terror”, just in case we don’t immediately get it.) But I had high hopes, owing to the fact that Meryl Streep had decided to do the film.
The movie is basically composed of three intertwined stories, all happening in just a span of a few hours. There’s the story played Tom Cruise, playing the role of a charismatic senator (reprising pretty much his persona in “Magnolia” — so yawn) trying to convince a liberal journalist played by Meryl Streep to help prop up the PR of a new military strategy involving the deployment of smaller-sized platoons to Afghan pockets. Meryl’s role is one uninspired cliche — part hard-nosed Murphy Brown, part “where have all the flowers gone, oh when will they ever learn” hippie. You sort of understand that the objective is for the exchange between Meryl and Tom to provoke your own discussion on the merits or demerits of US war policy while walking to the parking lot, but really all it provokes is an annoying headache. And not from thinking and analyzing, but from trying to stay awake.
The other story takes place in a faculty room, where a student is consulting his professor (Redford) about his low grades and the student whines about how nothing ever means anything to him anymore. And Robert “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” Redford gives a long boring Gandhi-inspired speech for about one-third of the movie on how “one must be the change he wishes to see in the world”. Oh and he talks about his two students who decided to join the war, over his vehement objections.
Cut to the third story. These two students themselves become the first victims of the new, but ill-conceived strategy of smaller platoons infiltrating Afghan desert pockets. This story was for me the best among the three, primarily because it did not involve two people talking to each other. It at least involved two people talking to each other WHILE trying to stay alive and then eventually dying in a rain of billets.
This movie isn’t about stating the Obvious. This movie is about turning the Obvious into one hard compact brick and then bludgeoning the hapless viewer on the head several times with it until her head cracks. Insert manipulative musical scoring at strategic intervals. Like when Meryl makes the super-fresh, super-revolutionary insight that media has blood in its hands for being an unwitting pawn in the War of Terror. Or when the foul-mouthed student realizes he is in the presence of true and profound greatness. Or when the two kids are about to die and there is a montage of shots of their young lives. (cinematic cliche number 27).
And because — after everything — we STILL might not get it, we have a final shot of Meryl Streep sitting pensively in a taxi, eyes welling with tears, looking at the notes of her interview with Tom Cruise. And then suddenly glancing out of the window, as the taxi passes by a cemetery memorial for fallen soldiers. No sophisticated metaphors for this movie, apparently.
I should just have watched the John Lloyd-Bea movie.