I went into seeing Lions for Lambs ready for a hearty dose of left-wing propaganda. Statements like “George W. Bush is a terrible president”, “we must find an exit strategy in Iraq since the war is going so poorly” and “the entire Republican party is a bunch of crooks and miscreants” were swirling through my head. What I wasn’t ready for was the story to told in such an unexpected manner (the trailers were a bit misleading).
Lions for Lambs is an intertwined tale of three equally compelling story lines. In one, Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) is verbally sparring with a reporter, Janine Roth (Meryl Streep). He’s a polished Republican with firm convictions on how the world should be shaped and how the United States must shape it. To meet his goal of world order, he has architected a new plan of attack on the war on terror, starting with a renewed offensive in Afghanistan. She is a weathered reporter who refuses to eat his talking points. Both characters stand strong in their beliefs and as one might expect, Roth’s anti-Bush stance carries more weight than the stay the course rhetoric being mouthed by Irving.
In another thread, university professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) is challenging Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield), a student who has lost his focus on school, to get reinvigorated in his studies. But that’s not the only reason to he’s speaking to him. Malley is trying to court Hayes into becoming a political activist and to pick a side for the battle of America. They counter back and forth without, unfortunately, coming to any real conclusions. The problem with this part, was instead of making me critically think about the political climate of the country (as the movie wants you to do), I simply shut their banter out of my head. Personally, I can’t stand listening to haughty individuals rationalize and try to one-up each other. Those types of people can all piss up a rope as far as I’m concerned.
And in the final path, two of Malley’s former students, Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke) are in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban in Irving’s masterminded offensive. Things aren’t going well for them – the intelligence reports are once again fouled – and both solders find themselves stranded in very hostile territory. Their commander Lt. Col. Falco (Peter Berg) is deeply troubled by the situation and tries everything in his power to rescue them. The abandoned men, while waiting for help, take the time to remember how they got in this situation and ultimately realize that they’ve got to rely on their own abilities if they are to survive. You can’t count on the government for anything. And while this was meant as a way to tie together the pieces of the movie into a nice bundle, it all seemed strangely staged. More displeasing to me was the use of this segment as a launching pad to find fault with our military.
Obviously, from a conservative standpoint, I would have liked to see more equal representation for the right. Irving tries to make his case, but writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, ends up making him into a war monger. I especially liked the added touch of having a plaque on his wall that read: If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness. However, Lions for Lambs does raise a few thought provoking questions while reiterating the tried and true Bush bashing that we’ve been privy to for the past few years. No matter the agenda, it’s worth a view and a subsequent talk around the water cooler at the job. I’m sure that’s music to the ears of the political forces that helped shape and release this movie.