Sunday, February 1, 2009
Lions For Lambs. Feature film. (2007, 92 mins) IMDB
tried and true method of making a story more interesting is to have more than one plot line. Plot A, B and C. Many TV soaps and miniseries follow this pattern. The problem with the approach is still the same--you have to have an interesting plot A and interesting plot B and so on. Switching between them, in itself, doesn't heighten our interest. In fact there's the potential to confuse us with all the different characters. Fortunately, in LIONS FOR LAMBS, we are never confused about where we are in the story, who the characters and what is happening. For that the screenwriter et al deserve credit.
But that's what happens in this film. We meet three groups of people and flip back and forth between the three stories. They intertwine and partially come together near the end, but never in any satisfying way.
Cruise plays a young US Senator. Part of the Bush crowd. He probably wants to be president and is looking for ways to win the war on terrorism. He invites a seasoned Streep to his DC office to talk about new events in the war in Afghanistan. She's a long-time mainstream TV news reporter with a professional history with him.
While they talk, discussing the failures in the six-year old war, members of the US military in Afghanistan launch a new mission. We see briefings at a base followed with the soldiers inside a transport helicopter. They are cocky as all hell (foreshadowing their demise) and before you know it they are taking flack. So much for their mission. One soldier falls out of the open end of the aircraft. His buddy, in an irrational move, jumps out after him. They end up in a snow-covered mountain ridge with Taliban and others approaching and no rescue in sight.
Finally there is Robert Redford as a wise old professor somewhere in California. He teaches political science. It's early morning and he has asked one of his gifted students to come talk about his place in school and life.
In the past couple of weeks I've mentioned war propaganda films and they related to WWII. In those films, the message was about supporting the war and doing your part. We never saw any critical debate on the issue. It was one-sided. In this war propaganda film, we see more points of view. Neither approach is necessarily right.
The tendency with media is to report both sides of an issue. For the most part that makes sense because there are often many points of view on an issue, but some issues just aren't open to debate. This doesn't apply to the film per se, but it's an issue that must be discussed. Climate change is one such issue. There are many distracters to the notion our world is slowly warming and we are the cause. These people ignore the overwhelming evidence. There is no debate. Our climate is changing and we are the cause because of the extraction of carbon from the ground. Yet, some would have you believe otherwise. Further, some believe there should be a balance in reporting and coverage. Nonsense. We don't debate about whether our drinking water should be clean. We don't debate about whether the earth is round or that it rotates around the sun. There are certain things we know are true. We can ignore them but we can't change the facts.
Does this film fall into that mind frame? No. The facts aren't as clear and therefore the truth is not certain.
While the film is what some may call liberal, in that it questions authority, it does ask something that politicians in the US are afraid to do. What are you personally doing? In the case of Redford, he has students' ears to suggest and provoke. For Streep, it's not just quoting verbatim what the government says. In the case of two soldiers dying on an Afghan mountain, it was volunteering to join the military when they didn't have to.
The student with whom Redford talks with during the movie returns to his dorm where he crashes in front of the TV along with his classmates. The onscreen news report is part cliché and part satire. We see a coifed and attractive woman reading the news, but not news that is of importance, no, it's news about some celebrity in trouble with the law or other such non-sense. While this trash news is covered to the hilt, stories about Afghanistan scroll by in small text at the bottom of the screen. We don't need a movie to tell us the obvious, but some people think we did.
Posted 2009/02/01 at 17h39ET in Movie Commentary.