March 31, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 17°C
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Comedy-Romantic Comedy

Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes)

Argentine director Damián Szifron shows how little things gone amiss can produce dark twists.

Wild Canaries

Laurence Michael Levin's screwball comedy is neither screwy nor particularly funny.

Drama

Trois couleurs: Blanc (Three Colors: White)

Kieslowski's "Three Colors: White" still ranks among the "sweetest" revenge movies ever concocted.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Michael Keaton is the mesmerizing fall guy in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s movie about acting, celebrity and identity.

Whiplash

For an indie movie, Damien Chazelle's jazz boot camp story has a decidedly Hollywood feel.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Sam Taylor-Johnson's painful take on E.L. James's BDSM novel leaves everyone shackled.

Inherent Vice

Stoner movies risk drugged-out self-indulgence, and Paul Thomas Anderson's latest qualifies.

Horror

Eden Lake

James Watkins saw the brooding talent of Jack O'Connell but stock horror has its limits.

The Babadook

Jennifer Kent's psychological horror thriller is at once predictable but enticingly off-kilter.

Westerns

The Homesman

Tommie Lee Jones again proves himself at home making and starring a Western.




Date: 2007
Directed by: Robert Redford
Starring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Peña

Lions for Lambs

It's understandable to make want to make an idealistic political "thriller" about the twin-pulls of duty to country and Iraq-tempered skepticism. But only a strong and coherent story, "Syriana"-style, can save such an undertaking from becoming that least appetizing of animals — the liberal Hollywood sermon. There's no saving director Robert Redford's cut-and-paste job about idealism gone awry. Start to finish, it's plagued with bad planning and hackneyed pitfalls — a bit like some war efforts.

He loosely ties together a California political science professor (Redford), a gung-ho U.S. senator with a new plan to "win" in Afghanistan (Tom Cruise), a skeptical reporter interviewing the senator (wasted Meryl Streep), and two of the professor's students who feel duty-bound to enlist and, of course, find themselves in hell-hole Afghanistan. The title, "lions for lambs," shortens (and waters down) a Battle of the Somme observation by a German officer about the folly of British soldiers being led to trench-warfare slaughter by unyielding generals, "Nowhere have I seen such Lions led by such Lambs." In essence, the lions are hopeful American boys and the lamb/donkeys the self-righteous leaders ill-equipped to manage them either militarily or politically.

The fractured, unthrilling narration skips back and forth between smooth senator, war scenes and anguished (Vietnam vet) professor. But the failure to decide just who and what are important at any given time dishonors the underlying message of hypocrisy abundant, good young men wasted and American idealism betrayed. It's an abnormally annoying outcome in the hands of Redford, whose worst films are usually more accomplished.

Reviewed by: Marcia Yarrow
Day and Boarding International High School in the Heart of Rome

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