Film: 'Lion for Lambs'; Starring: Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Derek Prince, Michael Pena; Director: Robert Redford; Rating: ***
Sometimes Hollywood takes itself too seriously. It has always prided itself in being one step ahead of the society in accepting more progressive ideas like civil and gay rights.
So when a movie like 'Lions for Lambs' comes out and we know it is about the war on terror, it is only natural that we take it with a pinch of salt.
'Lions for Lambs' is more of a discourse than a judgment on the war. At times gets bogged down with its own 'preachiness' but should be commended for its attempt to start a dialogue on a subject that affects a large part of the world.
The movie criss-crosses three stories, based on characters loosely related to one another, and each story gives a different perspective on the subject.
Tom Cruise plays an ambitious young senator eyeing the White House and has proposed a new military plan, and is trying to 'sell' it to a sceptical reporter (Meryl Streep).
The second story has the plan actually being worked out with two US soldiers (Derek Luke and Michael Pena) left behind wounded in the snowy Afghan mountains and an attempted rescue operation at night as the Taliban close in to capture them.
In the last story, we have a professor (Robert Redford, also director of the movie) trying to inspire a promising but apathetic student to actively participate in changing the world. The professor also taught the two soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
The driving force of the movie is its arguments presented in the dialogues. It touches on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, raising the question: If it is America's duty to spread 'freedom' and democracy?
It also slams the way media at time succumbs to political manipulation.
At times it gets into the nitty-gritty of what constitutes the best way to handle terrorism and subtly provokes us to answer the same tough questions the characters face. The movie clearly strives to ask more questions than answering them.
Cruise in an interview with Time magazine said, 'Wars never solved anything --that's my personal belief -- but I don't think that's necessarily what the film is all about. It does pose questions but it's not pointing the finger. Because so much has been happening after 9/11, it was hard to get to the truth.'
At times the pace slows to a crawl and the only action offered comes in the depiction of the soldiers in Afghanistan. But we soon have to endure watching them stuck in the snow and feel their agony as they wait for rescue.
It takes a while to acclimatize to the fact that this is more a lecture than a typical movie with a plot line, characters and a resolution.
It is also striking to see three stalwart actors like Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise -- who are iconic and assured legendary status -- in the same movie but even they have to make way for the real star -- the war on terror.
The actors are at the service of the issue and we are never allowed to forget that they are there only to highlight something they really care about.
For viewers in India it is a stretch to empathise with the characters and feel the weight of the issue since our context of the war on terror is different.
But even if the issue is distant the fact that we all have a responsibility to do something- anything, to change the world comes through loud and clear.
For that, 'Lions and Lambs' is worth a watch, even if it feels like it is more of a listen.