Lions for Lambs on DVD

Lions for Lambs on DVD. Sometimes I think I should write my comments about a film immediately afterwards instead of waiting to think about it. When the final credits for Lions finished, I thought it was an interesting, entertaining film, but the more I thought about it, the more negative I became. It seems increasingly difficult for filmmakers to leave their political agendas out of the creative process and just make films for audiences to enjoy, especially when the subject matter is something as controversial as war. Or maybe they’re not even trying. Robert Redford, who produced and directed this film, presents the same tired message that our political leaders are failing to lead, the media is succumbing to corporate demands and a celebrity-mad culture and failing to ask the important questions, and the general populace, especially the young, are apathetic witnesses to it all. However, the packaging of this message is pretty original.

Redford and screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan present three interrelated storylines, happening simultaneously over the course of ninety minutes. One thread has an aging professor (Redford) confronting a student with great potential about his personal apathy and society’s general lack of engagement. A second conversation is happening between an aggressive U.S. Senator (Tom Cruise) and an experienced reporter (Meryl Streep) in which Cruise tries to spin a new military offensive in Afghanistan as a brilliant positive move in the ongoing war. In contrast to the two verbal duels taking place in isolated offices, the third thread shows the violent action of the initial stage of the offensive and the consequences for two young soldiers, who happen to be former students of Redford’s; students who also had potential and decided to get engaged by enlisting in the army.

The three unique stories are woven together with effective editing and all are well-written, but it is saga of the two soldiers that is the highlight of the film. Michael Pena and Derek Luke give compelling performances and the frequent flashbacks to their student days add to the development of the characters. And it is this storyline that gives the film its dramatic energy and crescendo in contrast to the other passive conversations. Without it, there’s ninety minutes of content that could just as easily be found on the daily talk shows, well-scripted and well-acted, but not that compelling.

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