“Lions for Lambs,” review by Susan Granger

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Ripped from today’s headlines, Robert Redford’s latest political thriller is a no-holds-barred indictment of recent U.S. foreign policy and George W. Bush’s seemingly endless “war on terror.”

As political science professor, Stephen Malley (Redford) is trying to motivate an extraordinarily bright but undisciplined student (Andrew Garfield), two of his former students (Derek Luke, Michael Pena), both idealists from underprivileged backgrounds, have enlisted as Army rangers and are engaged in a dangerous firefight in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), a skeptical veteran television reporter, is interviewing charismatic Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) who, despite repeated denials, has Presidential ambitions. Right now, he’s revealing the U.S.’s new strategy of sending small Special Forces teams into to the mountains in Afghanistan to prevent Sunni and Shia insurgents from uniting. He’s so convincing in his logic that it’s terrifying.

Utilizing Matthew Michael Carnahan’s terse, intelligent script, deftly edited by Joe Hutshing, and eliciting frighteningly authentic performances from Cruise and Streep, Redford meshes multiple storylines, condemning media manipulation and public apathy and imploring Americans to take some responsibility for what’s happening.

The title comes from a W.W.I German general’s comment about the bravery of British troops and the ineptitude of their leaders: “Never have I seen such lions led by such lambs”…or as anguished Prof. Malley puts it, “where our courageous soldiers are put at risk by leaders who’ve never bled in a fight.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Lions for Lambs” is a defiant, compelling 10. What distinguishes this from other recent war movies is that it’s about far more than the tragic skirmish that takes place on the snowy mountainside. It’s provocative entertainment that makes you think.

(PERSONAL NOTE: My son, Don Granger, is president of MGM/UA.)

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.