Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lions for Lambs (2007)

One look at the poster of Lions for Lambs, you smell magic dollars, critical accolades, and a cornucopia of acting awards. Sadly, it received none of these - and for good reason too.

The film is essentially a potpourri of scenes from three "stories" intercut at will. The rather compelling drama of two soldiers stranded on a high plateau in Afghanistan, surrounded by the Taliban forces is predictable, yet still heart-pounding. However, the two slices of stale bread that sandwich this story are two political conversations, whose messages are loud and clear - and very commonplace. Even the mise-en-scene is similar. In one, you have Tom Cruise's ever-so-charming-and-conniving senator giving an exclusive interview to Meryl Streep's liberal news reporter. The acting in this particular story is actually passable, thank to Cruise's white teeth. In the other section, you have Robert Redford's liberal political science professor "lecturing" a once bright student of his. In both scenes, there is somebody behind a deskt5alking and someone sitting across ignoring and negating the interlocutor.

There is of course a connection between the three parts, but we have become so accustomed to this that it doesn't have a 'wow' effect anymore. I'm not saying that it has been done "better" elsewhere, but it has been done before. Another thing that is working against this film - among so many others - is that the message is delivered very loudly. As viewers, whatever political ideology we might possess, we know what is involved in this situation - it is nothing new. And it actually belittles the liberal point of view, by showing Meryl Streep (spoiler here!!!!) "giving up" in the end. And that's sad.

However, the major issue with Lions for Lambs is the lack of a dramatic tension. The war scenes are repetitive and, like I said before, predictable. Two heads talking to each other could be dramatic and entertaining (take Dr. Strangelove (1964) for instance), but here it is just two people talking about stuff we already know and hear in the news and talk shows.

I can't say it is a sadly-missed opportunity as there are so many other films from recent years that do this kind of stuff better. But, I would have preferred the war scenes as the centerpiece and not just an afterthought.

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