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A war movie with a short lifespan


Somehow I didn’t expect this would be the movie that would unite three of the biggest actors of all time: Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

I’m glad I waited for DVD. It never struck me as an event film that I had to see in theaters. It is a very slight film with a concept that gets achingly drawn out by three very big actors who play very important people which takes place in three settings: a university professor’s office, a politician’s office, and a snowy mountain region in Afghanistan. It kind of feels like a tug-of-war between a Tom Clancy-esque action movie and a David Mamet drama. I’m not sure why that concept seemed like a good idea. The emphasis is on the politician interviewing a reporter and the university professor talking to his student. The Afghanistan stuff is more of an underlying current, intended as a sort of dramatic tension that unites the two conversations. There is a “twist” on how that’s accomplished and I liked it, but after everything is said and done you’re left asking what the hell the point was.

I guess that’s the case for a lot of movies based around Iraq. These are always message movies. The concept behind Lions for Lambs is that Iraq is only the beginning. This is very apparent in 2010, three years after that statement. In war, three years can feel like an eternity. Back then it was probably quite the shocker to watch Tom Cruise look at a map of the Middle East and argue that the war machine was gearing up for Afghanistan and Iran. It’s less ominous watching it in hindsight.

Lions for Lambs was destined to have a shorter shelf life than most war movies. It was a very particular topic for that time. Certainly a lot is still relevant today.  The strongest element is Redford sitting at his desk drinking Starbucks. As long as Starbucks is around that will continue to age very well.

There were a couple weirdly placed subtitles, too. Usually I wouldn’t say anything but when a student walks up to the closed door of a faculty member and we can see his name on the plaque, I assume we don’t need a subtitle to tell us who he is. This happens in a couple of other places. It’s the movie trying to find methods of being “different” and I didn’t appreciate it. Wow me with the story, not with the awkward placement of your subtitles, Mr. Redford (he’s the guy who directed it).


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