Lions for Lambs is Tom Cruise's first movie for his United Artists after being given the boot from Paramount Pictures. And instead of putting himself in yet another one man show, he combines forces and shares the spotlight with a stellar cast comprising Robert Redford, who also takes on directing duties, and Meryl Streep, in a story that touches on quite realistically on current affairs, based on scribe's Matthew Michael Carnahan's take on the entire political situation in the USofA currently, with special focus put into its war on terror.
While Tom Cruise's recent antics might have irked some and taken off some of the shine off his star power, I can't help but be mesmerized by his take as the toothy grinning like a cheshire cat, cock-sure character of a Republican senator, who's on the party's good books, and billed as the next big personality that will probably take the White House one day. I have to admit that I had actually looked forward to him delivering that all famous "Yes or No" line from the trailers, though "Whatever it takes" may well be immortalized amongst his other more legendary one liners like "You could be mine" (Top Gun), "Show me the money!" and "You complete me" (Jerry Maguire) and "I want the truth!" (A Few Good Men).
War on Terror movies are proving to be popular subjects in the tail end of 2007, especially when USA is sabre-rattling Iran. We have already seen Rendition, and coming up is The Kingdom. And Lions for Lambs couldn't be any more current when Cruise's Senator Jasper Irving shows off his new tactical strategy against the guerrilla enemies, with words so carefully crafted and chosen by a brain nurtured and educated from Ivy League education, relating them to Streep's Janine Roth, a journalist who has been granted a one hour one-on-one session interview, with so much conviction, appeal and charisma, you're more than likely to fall for his charms, if not for Roth to bring him down to earth with reflections from the past.
Told in separate segments, each taking a look microscopically at the issue, but each when put together forms a bigger picture putting you in a Deus Ex Machina position, I thought the best segment belonged to Cruise-Streep, where they debate on politics, and media responsibility, with keen dialogue between the two parties filled with thrusting and parrying of various push and pull factors. There are many opportunities through this segment for you to nod in agreement with either side, but some might deem this as toting the middle ground, lacking in courage to take a stand on a side. But therein lies the problem, that there is hardly any clear cut right or wrong, that everything's based on information and intelligence. And the media can be manipulated, or be manipulative in telling select or fabricating truths.
The other segment deals with Robert Redford's Professor Stephen Malley counselling a promising student who seemed to have been slacking off in class, and in need of some serious waking up. Perhaps this segment is squarely targeted at our disengaged youths, whom many would have likened to drift toward partying and idling, rather than be diligent and hardworking to earn their keep and prove their worth. The conversation here turned quite philosophical, though not as engaging as the rapid fire and sly exchange that Cruise-Streep scenes offered.
Redford's segment is also very intricately connected to that of his ex-students, Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke), who are now Marines serving in Afghanistan, strong in their beliefs that they can make a difference to the world they live in. You can't help but think back to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, where he interviewed senators (like Cruise's character) who just talk the talk, leaving the little, weaker folk, to walk their talk instead, volunteering and signing up for active duty, for that carrot dangling at the end of their tour, IF they survive and get to obtain it at all. As we see from the news every other day about US soldier casualty numbers mounting in two theatres of war, they are but a statistic, and this segment offers a much micro look at the lives of these soldiers, that they too hold hopes and dreams of a better life, once they fulfill their part to their belief to be contributing to a better, peaceful world. Action junkies would probably be amongst the audience because of this segment, which looked remotely like Behind Enemy Lines and Courage Under Fire put together, the action scenes only that is.
This is a thinking man's movie, and those seeking high drama or intensive action from whatever little teases the trailers suggest, would be disappointed. What this movie is, is an examination of current geo-political situation of the US foreign policy, and its take on social issues, how it affects everyone from the high echelons of government, to the disconnected boy in the street who's focused on more selfish ideals. It is a mirror looking at US society as a whole, in their thinking of themselves as the moral police of the world (because of the belief they can, and therefore should), but on a bigger scale, this is a reflection of any society where people might seek that call to action, but just how many will take the easier route by blowing hot air, and how many would take the plunge and actually do something about issues they care passionately about.
Definitely not to be missed, even though it somehow rings a bit hollow in the end, as reel life takes on the real, but only if you want it to, thereby ending the way it ended, which was pitch perfect.