Lions for Lambs starts off with TV journalist Janice Roth (played wonderfully by Meryl Streep) coming into Senator Jasper Irving’s (Tom Cruise in a surprisingly underplayed but awesome role) office only to find out that the Senator has granted her a complete hour of his time for a one-on-one interview. She later finds out that the Senator wants to talk about his new war strategy in Afghanistan and get Roth to give some positive coverage so that the public is convinced that the plan is sound.
While this is happening in Washington DC, back in Afghanistan the new war strategy is put in place. Two soldiers Arian and Ernest are lost behind enemy lines when the chopper carrying them is hit by enemy fire. While one of them is seriously injured, the other has injured his leg and unable to walk. They just have one rifle and a pistol to protect themselves till the Rescue teams arrive. However, this takes longer than expected due to strong headwinds, and the fact that they are stuck on top of a reasonably inaccessible cliff.
The third parallel track of the movie deals with Dr Malley (played by the talented Robert Redford) summoning Todd Hayes, a talented, bright but disinterested student into his office. Malley offers Hayes a straight ‘B’ in his subjects for the rest of the term, provided Hayes promises to “do something” with himself for the rest of the year. When Hayes questions this logic, this leads to an interesting conversation where Malley reveals that both Arian and Ernest are ex-students of his who enlisted in the US Army because they truly believed that this was probably the only way right now where they could ‘make a difference’ and contribute their bit to making the world a better place to live in.
Malley goes on to tell Hayes how he tried to talk the two of them out of enlisting, and as to how in his opinion this particular war was a futile one. But then he is unable to convince the two youngsters, who have had rough childhoods and truly believe that this was probably the only thing that would probably make them ‘debt-free’ for the rest of their lives. They also believed by doing so, people would take them seriously and that it would be easier for them to be seriously heard if they were War Veterans.
What happens in the rest of the movie is something to be seen and not read in this review. Suffice to say Lions for Lambs is one movie which forces us to ask all the right questions. But the biggest issue with this movie is the fact that there is no semblance of an answer to any of these questions. While that by itself is not a big issue, the fact remains that this makes the movie more preachy than anything else. Although the technique of using 3 parallel sequences to tell the same story is not new, the way it is used in this movie is quite interesting. But then this also takes away a lot from the movie since all 3 sequences look and feel too different from each other to be logically connected.
Robert Redford is his competent best, Meryl Streep is probably at the peak of her acting abilities, but the surprise packet of this movie for me was Tom Cruise. He played the role of the Senator to the hilt. The way he tries to convince the TV journalist that this new strategy was “the strategy” that would ultimately result in the US troops coming out on top, and how this human and financial was necessary to put an end to 6 endless years of conflict, all of these make for awesome sequences in the movie. He plays the role of a politician to the T and it was quite refreshing to see him in a role which actually had so much substance to it.
Go watch this movie, at least to ask yourself the right questions, but don’t expect to find any answers in it.
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