Lions for Lambs (2007)
The approach by Robert Redford is interesting in this political and largely unnarrative film, as he shoots almost an entire film using three intercuts takes from three sets: (1) a conversation between a no-nonsense Republican senator (Cruise) and a once liberal reporter (Streep), (2) a conversation between a political science professor (Redford) and a talented student he feels is wasting his potential (Garfield), and (3) two young, idealistic American soldiers (Peña and Luke) trying to cope with a hopeless situation in a failed military action in Afghanistan. These segments are naturally connected, and fairly smoothly so, as Redford presents some thoughts around the complex and arguably unsatisfactory American foreign policy in general, and state of affairs in Iraq/Afghanistan in particular.
What is good about Lions for Lambs is that Redford brings the patient, deep discussion back to Hollywood. The film is inherently an asker rather than an answerer of questions, and this is effective on some levels, but it works far better in the refreshing Redford/Garfield relation than in the somewhat awkward (albeit profound) Streep/Cruise relation. "This is pure propaganda" says Janine Roth about Senator Irving's presentation. That is what many people will feel about Lions for Lambs as well, even if it is a well-disguised type of propaganda. There is no doubt that Redford as well as his film is leftist (by US standards), but to be honest, the director does view things from more than one angle, and doesn't claim to have the definite answer - fortunately and unfortunately.
Lions for Lambs is an engaging film that is delicately paced and that portrays serious and important issues. It is a commendable document from a filmmaker who through his entire career has wanted to break the mould and to make a difference. Unfortunately, Lions for Lambs isn't quite pungent enough to make that difference a lasting one - neither filmatically nor as a political statement. Redford's professor Stephen Malley says that he feels it's better to try and fail than to fail to try. This film shows that Redford, at any rate, is a man of his word. Kudos, though, to the effective untraditional rhythm of the ending.