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Black Sea

Jude Law plays a submarine captain and mercenary in a move that drowns.

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Big Eyes

Tim Burton fails to animate a story about an American painter whose art is "stolen" by her husband.

American Sniper

American sniper Chris Kyle is portrayed as a simple and direct man, to Clint Eastwood's credit.

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Noah Baumbach hits some true notes in a New York comedy about generational confusion..

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Red Army

This remarkable look at the Soviet hockey dynasty of the 1970s and 80s is also a passion play.

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Hollywoodland

A story about what might have happened to the original Superman is stylish but shallow.

Leviathan

Andrey Zvyagintsev's deeply moving account of a Russian life in tatters is high on fatalism.

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Love Eternal

A horror thriller about bereavement, estrangement and necrophilia is odd but incomplete.

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Slow West

New Zealander John MacLean constructs a brooding Western from a host of quirky parts.

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Time Lapse

Bradley King's supernatural thriller has a good idea but its characters soon find themselves boxed in.




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
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