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

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_y6dpvzigsnvvskcmoqjamctbogg

Planes: Fire & Rescue

"Planes: Fire & Rescue" won’t ever be mistaken for a classic, especially not with its happy ending that exists primarily for the benefit of future…

Thumb_5omusvdwvy5duis2jrck22aecnq

Mood Indigo

Even if you have a high tolerance for whimsy, "Mood Indigo" may still be too much.

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

Reverse Trip: Charting the History of Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer"

A look at the cinematic and political history that resulted in Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer."

Video games can never be art

Having once made the statement above, I have declined all opportunities to ...

The Unloved, Part 2: John Carter

The Unloved, Scout Tafoya's video essay series about critically reviled films that deserve more respect, continues wi...

Home Entertainment Consumer Guide: July 17, 2014

The best new releases on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, VOD, and Blu-ray/DVD.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus