In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_48xgnfxyg4he9kln4dy4adzra2l

A Walk in the Woods

These guys still know how to not just hold our attention but grab it, even if their current film needs them more than they need…

Thumb_large_xbjzcdnnuxx7z1v5g68dtbpgfid

War Room

War Room preaches that we have no call to be righteous and judge others, yet the film itself is righteous and judgmental in the extreme.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Lions for Lambs

Lions for Lambs Movie Review
  |  

Useful new things to be said about the debacle in Iraq are in very short supply. I'm not sure that's what "Lions for Lambs" intends to demonstrate, but it does, exhaustingly. Essentially, if I have this right, we should never have invaded Iraq, but now that we're there, (1) we can't very well leave, and (2) we can't very well stay, so (3) the answer is, stay while in the process of leaving.

The movie is a talkathon with a certain amount of military action. It could be presented about as well as a radio play. Directed by Robert Redford, it uses an all-star cast which focuses attention away from the dialogue and toward the performances. Since I doubt that's what Redford intended, it doesn't speak well for the screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan. When a third of a movie involves a verbal duel between Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, what are we supposed to do, not notice who's talking?

The movie follows three storylines, plus flashbacks linking all of them. In Washington, a veteran journalist (Streep) sits down for an exclusive interview with a Republican senator (Cruise) who has presidential ambitions. In Los Angeles, a political science professor (Redford) sits down to discuss the purposes of life with a brilliant but disappointing student (Andrew Garfield). And in Afghanistan, two of the professor's former pupils (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) are involved in a firefight on a snowy mountain peak.

As it happens, they are involved in the very military strategy that the senator is touting to the journalist. It involves seizing the high ground in Afghanistan earlier in the season than the Taliban can get there, to control mountain passes and therefore prevent Taliban troop movements. The Cruise character presents this as a strategic breakthrough on a level with, I dunno, Nelson's rout of Napoleon.

In Los Angeles, the promising student has just stopped caring, and the talk with his professor is designed to reignite his passion. He should get involved in his nation's politics -- take an interest, take a stand. A flashback sequence shows the two soldiers winning a classroom debate by calling the other side's bluff: They have enlisted in the military.

The movie is anti-Bush's war, I guess. The journalist makes better points than the senator, anyway. What the professor and his student think is hard to say, although they are very articulate in muddying the waters. As for the two enlistees, it is safe to assume that at the end of the film, they are wondering whether their debate strategy was the right one.

There is a long stretch toward the beginning of the film when we're interested, under the delusion that it's going somewhere. When we begin to suspect it's going in circles, our interest flags, and at the end, while rousing music plays, I would have preferred the Peggy Lee version of "Is That All There Is?"

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Wes Craven 1939-2015

An obituary for Wes Craven.

The Unloved, Part 21: Anonymous

Scout Tafoya's Unloved series continues with Roland Emmerich's "Anonymous."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus