February 27, 2017 | Rome, Italy | Partly cloudy 16°C
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Biopics

Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson''s return to directing is a World War II epic about a heroic conscientious objector.

Documentaries

Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years

Ron Howard's Beatles' portrait sets its sights on tracking the band's rise from obscurity, and does so brilliantly.

Drama

Demon

Marcin Wrona's portrayal of a wedding, and a haunting, is a brilliant look at historical denial.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Stephen Frears' biopic has star power (Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant) but remains ordinary.

Sully

Stalwart Tom Hanks again proves that given the right story and the right script, he's today's Jimmy Stewart.

Deepwater Horizon

Peter Berg lets fire dictate the terms in his story of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Horror

The Autobiography of Jane Doe

André Øvredal's creepy chiller a corpse into the forefront and lets it play havoc.

Thrillers

Jason Bourne

Once upon a time, director Paul Greengrass gave Jason Bourne a soul and some depth. No longer.

Westerns

Hell or High Water

David MacKenzie's contemporary Western uses two sets of buddies to tell an outlaw story.

Fantasy

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Tim Burton's whimsical latest has a better chance of appealing to grandchildren than adults.




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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