Movie News & Reviews

Lions for Lambs needs slaughtering

It took me a while to figure out just how bad "Lions for Lambs" was.

There was never any question it was bad. Approximately 80 of its 90minutes are pissed away by people sitting across from each othertalking urgently about the need to do something about politics inAmerica. It's almost like an anti-movie, or maybe just a very badplay: senator Tom Cruise tells reporter Meryl Streep about his newplan for victory on the war on terror, professor Robert Redford argueswith student Andrew Garfield about the need to wake up and takeaction, and meanwhile, Redford's former students, Michael Pena andDerek Luke, soldiers in Afghanistan, get shot down in enemy territoryand await rescue.

I feel like I should put a spoiler warning in here, because with theexception of about five minutes of wrap-up, that is the entire plot.This takes place basically in real time, too. You can tell becausethe characters are always glancing at the clocks to see how much timethey have left, which was weird, because I was doing the exact samething.

So...what? Two conversations cross-cut with a couple soldierswrithing around in the snow, is that even a movie? Isn't that morelike the first 15 minutes of a movie, where you set up the initialconflicts and then let them play out as the characters make decisionsand try to put their ideas into action? So that there's--what's theword--drama?

In what sense can what is essentially a sermon rehashing played-outpolitical arguments until the credits roll be said to be a story?More importantly, what manner of madness led writer Matthew MichaelCarnahan to believe that, aside from an occasional line of decentdialogue or spark of life from Redford and Streep, there is anythinghere that could pass for art or entertainment?

The answer, as it turns out, is the kind of madness where Carnahancares so much about what he's saying that he loses all grasp onsubtlety and may as well be raving straight into the camera himself.The movie's utter dullness was clarified for me later that day when Iwatched "Hellraiser 2," a nonsensical, brain-dead cash-in sequel, andhad more fun trying to figure out what in Sam Hill was going on withPinhead and the skinless bodies than I did watching "Lions for Lambs'"tepid stereotypes jabbering at each other for the complete duration ofthe universe. Incidentally, I'm afraid I don't know whether that's6,000 years or 18 billion, because about an hour in I died of FunScurvy, which is like regular scurvy, except with no fun instead ofvitamin C. I even lost several teeth when I fell asleep and donked myface into the seat in front of me.

On the off chance anyone could misunderstand the movie's points whenthey're continually spoken aloud, Redford's direction helpfullylingers on thematically relevant newspaper clippings, quotes, andimages of soldiers' cemeteries. It's an impressive display of havingno faith the audience has the brain to remember things from earlier inthe movie or understand human language. It's also impressive that amovie so angry about how the troops are being exploited has the ballsto go and exploit them for its cause instead.

It's one thing to make a movie so artlessly, nakedly political thateven when you agree with what it's saying you find it tedious andstilted to the point of embarrassment. When it also has no plot oraction whatsoever, the list of things that would be more fun thanwatching "Lions for Lambs" would be the list of everything that hasever or will ever happen, and that includes being beaten to death witha shovel, or saying "Boring" until you die of dehydration.

Near the long-awaited ending, Streep's boss asks if she's letting herpolitics cloud her reasoning. It's hard to believe no one ever askedCarnahan if his politics were preventing him from writing somethingremotely watchable.

Grade: F