Lions for Lambs - More Baa Than Roar
| Tom Cruise. Meryl Streep. Robert Redford. It sounds like a dream project. Well, just like many dream projects, this one falls far short of expectations.
Lions for Lambs is a talky liberal movie in the vein of the best talky liberal movies in that it criticises the weakness and failings of the American left (or whatís left of if) as much as it criticises the corruption of the American right. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. said, itís not the deeds of the bad people but the inaction of the good people, or something like that.
Lions for Lambs gets point for that. It also gets points for presenting truly interesting debate. This is the first movie that has really challenged the status quo on current issues. The dialogue here around the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the morality of war, public participation, and civic responsibility are truly well handled, truly important and truly relevant. This film gets lots of points for making its points and making its audience wrestle with what it needs to wrestle with.
It also gets point for good performances. While understated, Cruise, Streep and Redford all give very strong, competent performances which do not chew scenery but provide each character with enough of an inner life to get their identities across. They arenít working with much where when it comes to character development, so each of these pros manages to bring what they can to their parts.
Where the film looses points is how it forgets that itís a film and not a lecture. I donít care how relevant its subject is, the film drags. Itís a bore. They do all they can to squeeze a story out of this mess but they fail. Itís just not there. The film actually becomes more of a drag when it strays from its two main dialogues and gets into a completely tiresome tale of two young soldiers dying needlessly in the conflict. I can only imagine that this is meant to create the necessary pathos that a film like this needs but it just isnít there.
The best message movies accomplish being great stories too. Think of films like A Few Good Men, which I mention because it shares a star with this film and also has a dream cast. Itís riveting. It has as plot that rocks its audience and allows its message to ride along, more effectively driving it home. Lions For Lambs drops the ball completely and looses its message in the tedium. The dream cast deserves better and so does its audience and so does its cause.