Massawyrm Thinks LIONS FOR LAMBS Is The Best Movie No One Will See!!
Published at: Oct. 30, 2007, 8:02 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
Once upon a time a little bit of political controversy could drum up box office numbers like nobodies business. A little liberal song and dance would trigger a lot of saber rattling from the right and generate just the kind of buzz a small film needed to go from unknown to the biggest thing anyone was talking about. But those days are gone now. A country once divided by passion and rhetoric seems to slowly be reuniting through general apathy. We've started the search for our president's replacement a full year earlier than normal and our media is drowning its sorrows in the antics of a bunch of drunken twenty something's and celebrity mugshots. So now that we no longer seem to give a shit…that's when Hollywood rolls out all the political films. What would have been politically charged and poignant two years ago is little more than static today. Everything's been said. The show's over. It's time to go back home, go back to sleep and hope that when we wake up another celebrity has used the N-word, just so we'll have something new to talk about.
Which is why I wish someone would grab Robert Redford by the scruff of the neck, smack him around a little and tell him "Keep your goddamned mouth shut and let the movie speak for itself, dumbass." Robert Redford is one of this countries most respected filmmakers. A longtime distinguished actor who perfected the art of appearing natural by knowing just when to interrupt himself in mid-sentence and a director who always makes very well made, character driven films, he is also known for being one of Hollywood's most successful mavericks. And an unabashed liberal. So when he set out to make a film about the media, the military and the War on Terror (™), it's pretty clear that not only is it going to be something worth watching, but which way it was going to lean when you did.
Except that despite all of his rhetoric at the films premiere, the film is actually NOT what you would imagine. In fact, quite to the contrary, this film doesn't beat the liberal drum to a tune that will satisfy liberals. It plays a beat that aims right at the heart of the center. Knowing that the far right isn't going to pull its head out of the sand long enough to see what's going on and that the left doesn't need convincing, Redford goes for the single most neglected group of individuals left in this country. The center. The moderates. The folks who actually decide every election. While the democratic contenders all try to prove who's more liberal than the other without being Kucinich and the Republicans all try to prove they're the next George W. Bush without actually being anything like George W. Bush, Redford goes for the jugular of the heart of America by skipping the usual blame game.
Instead, Lions For Lambs passes up the usual suspects. There's even a line in it that says "Forget about the guys that got us here, they're irredeemable" and it puts the blame elsewhere. On us. On the media. On everyone that let it happen. And it sets out to remind us that we were the ones who allowed all this to happen and we're the only ones who can fix it. Not by who we vote for, but by what we as individuals do. Lions for Lambs is a film entirely about personal responsibility. It's about calling out the bullshitters and implicating the folks that usually get a pass. In fact, despite the way the Republican party is portrayed in this, it is actually the media (which looks an awful lot like CNN) who walks away with a black eye.
But while it does all this it does so in a manner that is so god damned patriotic that it'll bring tears to the eyes of seriously die hard patriots. This movie LOVES America. This is Aaron Sorkin levels of patriotism distilled down to its essence and applied liberally to every frame. This thing just drips love for its country. It guts its senators. It humiliates its media. And it admonishes the Americans who fell asleep at the wheel and let this country fall off course for a few years. But its soldiers? Man does this movie love its soldiers. There isn't a negative portrayal of one to be found. This isn't another war-is-hell movie. This is a what-were-we-thinking movie.
Not to say that it won't bother right-wingers, particularly those who still believe in the war. It pretty much deconstructs all of their current arguments and plays the Vietnam analogies to the hilt. It's going to be readily dismissed by those who would most benefit from it – but at the same time it seems to know that. It feels like it has set its sights on the very middle and presents the arguments that would best win them over.
And it certainly seemed effective. I saw this with a decidedly older crowd who all walked out murmuring about politics and the film. One man walked past the rep and when asked what he thought the man looked up, narrowed his eyes and in a gruff voice kind of barked out "Truth hurts," and just kept walking. A lot of people around him just nodded. This was a decidedly different energy than that of other political call to action films. It gives the audience something to chew on. It's not about energizing a base. It's about reminding certain people what their apathy and fear have caused and just how important it is that we do something. It's a wonderful, thoughtful film that for a certain segment of the audience is going to make some pretty profound arguments.
That said, liberals really aren't going to get much out of this thing. It's not a very exciting movie. It's three conversations that we cut back and forth between – a Senator talking with a reporter about his new plan to win the war in Afghanistan, a professor talking to one of his students and a pair of soldiers trapped on a Taliban controlled mountaintop. Not a lot happens. In fact, the film is almost play-like at times. And as these three conversations congeal into a solid argument many liberals are going to find themselves shrugging and saying "Yeah, and? I already knew this." It's a film that tries so hard to avoid preaching to the choir that it almost forgets the choir is still sitting in the room.
Right about now is the time when someone chimes in with But what about the performances? Look, it's Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise. How the hell do you think they were? Say what you will about their politics or religions, but these three are all at the very top of their professions. And these are exactly the kind of performances you'd expect out of them. Cruise is especially great, once again using his natural charm and charisma to come across as a sleaze much in the same way he did in Magnolia. Everytime he smiles you just know you can't trust him. Redford does what he does best, essentially serving as the narrator of the film without actually narrating, if you follow my meaning. He's lays out the arguments and brings everything together for the audience. And Streep, jesus. If Streep's ever given a mediocre performance it was when she was alone in a dark room with the shades drawn. Here she serves as our guilt, our conscience – the realization that as much as we may voice our concern, we are all in some way complicit in what has occurred here over the last 6 years.
If this movie has any obstacle it is simply that this country really is becoming apathetic again. We're falling back asleep on the couch. We've all yelled and screamed for so long that no one really seems to care anymore. And really, these movies are a couple years too late. The only people who are bound to go out of their way to see this kind of thing are least likely the people that need to see it. If you're the kind of person who enjoys a good stageplay-on-film and enjoys reveling in fantastic performances than this comes recommended. If however you are hungering for a great political film to re-energize you for the next YEAR of presidential campaigning, then this isn't the film for you. As much as it might appear to be a liberal kiss on the cheek, it is anything but.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.