July 24, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 26°C
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Biopics

J. Edgar

A nuanced Leonardo DiCaprio charges up Clint Eastwood's history of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover.

Drama

Le Meraviglie (The Wonders)

A story about bee keepers in Tuscany runs several levels deeper than appearances.

The Lincoln Lawyer

Matthew McConaughey's forty-something comeback began in Brad Furman's hands.

Party Girl

Three French directors give a middle-aged reveler a new look on life.

Science Fiction

Peggy Sue Got Married

Coppola's "Peggy Sue Got Married" still stands out as a top-notch fantasy charmer.

The Double

British director Richard Ayoade gets tangled up in noir-bizarre and loses the plot.

Chronicle

Josh Trank's cautionary tale about superpowered-adolescence is sneaky smart.

War

Sink the Bismarck!

Lewis Gilbert's 1960 standard sets a high mark for World War II dramatizations.

Fantasy

Enemy

Two Jake Gyllenhaals aren't enough to carry a Canadian thriller about doppelgangers.

The Faculty

Robert Rodriguez does something special with his high school horror flick.




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
Everything you need to know about visiting or moving to Tuscany, Italy.