Monday, January 10, 2011

Rewind--Lions for Lambs

or: Just like going to college...

One word to sum it up: Tiring.

You know how when you are kinda obsessed with a certain actor and you feel obliged to watch a lot of their films? Well, yeah, my current obsession is Andrew Garfield, and there aren’t too many films out there with him in them...yet. But given the fact that Lions for Lambs was right there at my disposal, which happens to feature Andrew Garfield in one of his early American roles, of course I had to add it to my list of Andrew movies. Even though I had to be lectured for 87 minutes in order to do that.

Lions for Lambs begins after two determined students at a West Coast University, Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Pena), follow the inspiration of their idealistic professor, Dr. Malley (Robert Redford), and attempt to do something important with their lives. But when the two make the bold decision to join the battle in Afghanistan, Malley is both moved and distraught. Now, as Arian and Ernest fight for survival in the field, they become the string that binds together two disparate stories on opposite sides of America. In California, an anguished Dr. Malley attempts to reach a privileged but disaffected student (Andrew Garfield) who is the very opposite of Arian and Ernest. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. the charismatic Presidential hopeful, Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise), is about to give a bombshell story to a probing TV journalist (Meryl Streep) that may affect Arian and Ernest's fates.

I knew Lions for Lambs wasn’t going to be interesting from the very start, since it deals with the Iraq war...something which is overused in the film industry to an often dry and thoughtless extent. Lions for Lambs is no exception to that rule. It's an overly contrived set of stories which seem barely even connected right, and overall can't elevate from being like every other war movie: boring. It's the same every time when Hollywood tries to attack the government over something they aren't particularly proud of. Unfortunately, such elements can't be made into a piece of pop culture. Lions for Lambs tries to paint a bad picture of everyone involved, which contributes to some off-the-mark characterization through it's series of lectures. It too rarely feels like a film, and I kinda felt like I was being lectured by Robert Redford just the way that Todd did. Maybe this is a good film to show at college when talking about the subject this movie tries to tackle?

You usually can't go wrong with Meryl Streep, but her performance is a little bit bland, until the end when it turns a little desperate. Tom Cruise is, you know, Tom Cruise, except this time he is being all powerful and executive. Robert Redford takes on both the lead role and the direction duties, and does those both adequately well. Andrew Garfield, in his film debut (he also made his BAFTA winning TV-film Boy A in the same year), shows us some early signs of what he is truly made of. He's such an honest actor who deserves any accolades coming for him. I wouldn't exactly call him scene stealing in this movie, but I would say that he is possibly one of the better parts of it.

THE VERDICT: A dull stab at the US Government that feels like a series of lectures...and no film should be a series of lectures.


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