Monday, November 12, 2007

Lions for Lambs

The new Redford/Cruise/Streep movie is a rarity in Hollywood today: a movie for grown-ups that includes no sex, romance, or even much swearing. Yet this movie is still completely made for grown-ups. It's written more like a play in three locations interspersed in real time - a senator's office, a poli-sci professor's office, and a mountain in Afghanistan. There are only 6 real characters, and most of what they do is talk. Cruise is a young senator who is telling a veteran reporter, played with the expected brilliance of Streep, about how he planned a new "strategy" for winning the war on terror. He seems to be arguing all the standard points on that side of the argument, but he does it with a genuine attitude that is lacking in real-life politicians. Streep questions him at every point, and their discussion is a well-written debate on how the war should be fought and won. They bring in topics that always get pushed aside, like the role of the media in the war, and why the same questions keep getting asked. The second location is Redford (who also directed really well) talking to a student about why he's stopped attending his class. The kid, Andrew Garfield, is terrific holding his own against Redford. There are flashbacks to his presence in class, and he even gets to explain why he stopped buying Redford's argument's about the political landscape of today. When asked why Redford cares if he attends his class Redford tells him about 2 other students with the same potential as Garfield, who took a project Redford assigned and decided to enlist after they graduated. While Redford said he was "disappointed they enlisted, he revered their reasons for doing it." That is the final location, watching these two former students begin to take a snow-covered mountain in Afghanistan, implementing the new strategy Cruise is describing to Streep. Overall, the story is well choreographed, showing the real-time causes and effects of decisions in Washington, while recognizing that these are real people who are remembered by others back at home. The acting is terrific, and the movie doesn't try to preach as much as make you think about what you know and what questions aren't being asked. It didn't change my mind, but it definitely opened it a bit further.

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