Ripped from todays headlines, Robert Redfords latest political thriller is a no-holds-barred indictment of recent U.S. foreign policy and George W. Bushs 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, hes 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. Hes so convincing in his logic that its terrifying.
Utilizing Matthew Michael Carnahans 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 whats happening.
The title comes from a W.W.I German generals 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 whove 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 its about far more than the tragic skirmish that takes place on the snowy mountainside. Its provocative entertainment that makes you think.
(PERSONAL NOTE: My son, Don Granger, is president of MGM/UA.)