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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
TBC
Cast
Tom Cruise
Meryl Streep
Michael Pena
Derek Luke
Andrew Garfield
Robert Redford.
Directors
Robert Redford.
Screenwriters
Matthew Michael Carnahan.
Running Time
minutes

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Lions For Lambs
Redford tries to talk it out


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Plot
A senator (Cruise) unveils a new Afghan war strategy to reporter Roth (Streep). A professor (Redford) talks to student Todd (Garfield). And two soldiers (Peña and Luke) fight to stay alive?


Review
Lions For Lambs
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Robert Redford’s rep as a Hollywood liberal may sink this film, right out of the gate. Sight unseen, US pundits are accusing it of an anti-Bush bias, and with audiences avoiding Iraq and Afghanistan films in droves, a movie that not only discusses the War On Terror but does very little else is never going to beat Titanic at the box office. But this is more balanced than pre-reviews would have you believe, and more about asking questions than offering trite answers.

The three-stranded plot is simple. A senator (Tom Cruise) announces a new war strategy for Afghanistan to a veteran reporter (Meryl Streep). Two soldiers (Michael Peña and Derek Luke) implement those new orders and land in serious peril. And a professor of political science (Robert Redford) tries to motivate a young student (Andrew Garfield) to engage in classes. Two thirds of the film, therefore, is pure talk - Redford’s professor barely stirs from his chair; Streep’s reporter and Cruise’s Senator Jasper Irving have a sit-down interview. Even the soldiers are pinned in one spot. It could almost be a stage play.

But Michael Matthew Carnahan’s script and Redford’s assured direction have the smarts to make the static seem kinetic. The back-and-forth between Cruise and Streep, in particular, is electric; this will, if there’s any justice, see Cruise finally win an Oscar. Perhaps spurred on by working opposite the screen’s most accomplished actress, the world’s biggest star is on Magnolia form, bringing that almost creepy charisma to bear as a highly influential senator.

There is a clear critique of modern politics - Cruise makes assertions on a par with Blair’s 45-minute claim without offering proof, vaguely acknowledges past mistakes while repeating them, and displays fury at the adversaries who refuse to play by his rules. But Streep’s character isn’t blameless either, compromised by the media’s early cheerleading for the Iraq War and her inability to effectively question the party line.

More surprising is how well newcomer Andrew Garfield matches Redford, the novice convincing as a feckless student whose surfer dude mannerisms conceal a keen mind. Redford’s don, worn down but not out by apathetic students, tries to galvanise Garfield’s Todd into action by telling him about soldiers Ernest and Arian, now serving in Afghanistan.

If there’s any part of the film that’s unbalanced, it’s the portrayal of these two paragons - hard-working scholarship boys who go off to war because they want to do good. There’s been a tendency in recent years to lionise the common soldier which, while properly laying the blame on the political management, risks offering an unrealistic look at the experience of war: it’s hard to imagine Platoon, say, being made in the current climate. But Peña and Luke bring enough chemistry to their roles to add an emotional edge while avoiding being mere ciphers. Ultimately, they are scared kids lost in a foreign country, a reminder of the human life put at risk by high ideals and political mistakes. The moral seems to be that, whichever side of the political divide you’re on, you owe it to people like these to make the right choices.


Verdict
A smart, accessible, surprisingly balanced look at our dysfunctional world. Compelling stuff.


Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Lions For Lambs
Empire Star Rating

RE: Lions For Lambs

L: axeman ust for the record, I like Helen very much and have read some great stuff by her. I just think in this instance her arguments didn't hold up very well. just an opinion. No offence intended. Point taken, but my observations on tone still stand in general.  For the record, I do heartily agree with Empires non-London/Home Counties centric focus on Films.  I would far rather they feature most heavily the films available to all, not just to those (un)lucky enough to liv... More

Posted by sphincter at 18:39, 11 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: lions for lambs

I completely disagree with you Marvel 79. L: Marvel_79 I haven't seen this film yet, I will. But can I take issue with those people having a dig at Empire for picking it as there film of the week, why shouldn't they, as Helen points out in Empire's opinion this is the best film with the largest access to it's readers. So what if some smaller film is better - People would be moaning if Empire recommended a film they couldn't get access to as the film of the week, I can imagine the c... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fierce-hairdo at 11:23, 11 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: lions for lambs

I haven't seen this film yet, I will.  But can I take issue with those people having a dig at Empire for picking it as there film of the week, why shouldn't they, as Helen points out in Empire's opinion this is the best film with the largest access to it's readers.  So what if some smaller film is better - People would be moaning if Empire recommended a film they couldn't get access to as the film of the week, I can imagine the comments now "What's the point of recommending a film as ... More

Posted by Marvel_79 at 08:56, 10 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: Rgirvan44 Also - I'm a huge West Wing fan, but if the guy above didn't think it had its moments of being patronising and one sided then he was watching a different show than me. sp; I should say that I missed it when it was on TV so I am working my way through it on DVD at present and I have only seen series 1 & 2 at present.   It is my understanding that the original writer left around series 4, so it may have changed from then onwards.   I think my comments s... More

Posted by JagLover at 14:21, 07 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: doncopey1 I'm looking forward to this one, big fan of the Cruiser when he's acting instead of being blown up. sp; You were one word away from commiting libel...p; As to the film, the bit where Cruise says "Do you want to win the war on terror. Yes or No?" Really annoyed me for some reason - still I am intrigued by it, esp as it comes from Fox.. The last trailer I saw for it (with techno music) made it look like a thriller which makes me think they are not sure what to make of it. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 13:54, 07 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

I'm looking forward to this one, big fan of the Cruiser when he's acting instead of being blown up. ... More

Posted by doncopey1 at 14:51, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

e:HELEN OHARARIGINAL: Woger Fox have a news channel?? Well, to a given value of "news". p; Yeah, they do. I watched it a couple of times. I did'nt know whether to laugh or cry.   Lions for Lambs...I have'nt though...should I wait for DVD? ... More

Posted by Mr Terrific at 14:32, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: Woger Fox have a news channel?? Well, to a given value of "news".   Oh, a quote from Capone at AICN on the subject, which I think sums the film up rather well:   "Robert Redford's latest work LIONS FOR LAMBS is going to bother a lot of people who don't even bother to see it, because they think they know what it's about. As much as the film is about the current war in the Middle East, the object of scorn is not warmongers, big corporations, and politicians on eithe... More

Posted by Helen OHara at 14:10, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: Helen OHara Waow, jacksass, you never stop do you? Here we go again. The ratio of ads to content is that there are fewer ads pages than editorial pages and always have been. Most of Empire's revenues comes from sales, I believe, and even if ads did make up the majority of our income, the film distributors know that they CANNOT EVER interfere in our reviews, which are entirely sacrosanct and NOT influenced in any way by advertising. I, as reviews editor, don't know who is advertisin... More

Posted by Woger at 13:23, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

That one, dh, I took as a joke, you're OK. Some of the rest above, however, sp; Anyhoo, back on topic. I think it's compelling, with electric, Oscar-worthy performances. ... More

Posted by Helen OHara at 11:54, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: rikkie L: dh_19 L: Helen OHara Don't believe the right-wing hype about it - give this film a chance and you'll see that it's not as slanted as some of the reviews would have you believe. I wonder who has paid her off to say that? o you have an inkling how slanderous that comment is?  Not to mention offensive. sp; I meant it as a joke as to how ridiculous and off topic this thread has become. If it is truly offensive then feel free to delete it! ... More

Posted by dh_19 at 11:48, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: dh_19 L: Helen OHara Don't believe the right-wing hype about it - give this film a chance and you'll see that it's not as slanted as some of the reviews would have you believe. I wonder who has paid her off to say that? o you have an inkling how slanderous that comment is?  Not to mention offensive. ... More

Posted by rikkie at 11:45, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: Helen OHara Don't believe the right-wing hype about it - give this film a chance and you'll see that it's not as slanted as some of the reviews would have you believe. sp; I wonder who has paid her off to say that? ... More

Posted by dh_19 at 11:44, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

Then I'm surprised that you're so dismissive of this. Don't believe the right-wing hype about it - give this film a chance and you'll see that it's not as slanted as some of the reviews would have you believe. ... More

Posted by Helen OHara at 11:28, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: Helen OHara As for a "Hollywood liberals' communal wankfest", someone's been watching too much Fox news. sp; I have no objections to Films or TV shows having a liberal agenda(using the American definition of liberal). It should however be done with intelligence and subtlety. Not patronise the audience and lecture them.   One of my favourite, if not the favourite, tv shows is the West Wing. Many of the characters in West Wing may have political beliefs I disagree with, but ... More

Posted by JagLover at 11:22, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

Waow, jacksass, you never stop do you? Here we go again.   The ratio of ads to content is that there are fewer ads pages than editorial pages and always have been. Most of Empire's revenues comes from sales, I believe, and even if ads did make up the majority of our income, the film distributors know that they CANNOT EVER interfere in our reviews, which are entirely sacrosanct and NOT influenced in any way by advertising. I, as reviews editor, don't know who is advertising in the mag a... More

Posted by Helen OHara at 11:01, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: axeman Give it a rest, please! I really cant see why some people are even registered on these forums, as all they seem to do is come on here, moaning about the content, the quality of the reviews, alleged bias,blah, blah,blah...  If Empire really p*sses them off that much, why the hell do you read it, and spend so much time on the site.  Yes, forums are for considered debate, but when you see people repeatedly coming on for their daily moan about the latest review, it bec... More

Posted by JagLover at 10:35, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

ust for the record, I like Helen very much and have read some great stuff by her. I just think in this instance her arguments didn't hold up very well. just an opinion. No offence intended. sp; Point taken, but my observations on tone still stand in general.  For the record, I do heartily agree with Empires non-London/Home Counties centric focus on Films.  I would far rather they feature most heavily the films available to all, not just to those (un)lucky enough to live within ... More

Posted by axeman at 00:05, 06 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

L: axeman And the tone of some of the responses is just way out of line - Why so confrontational? Why do you have to put people down, including Helen, just to make your own point? Show some respect for others, including the Empire writers. ust for the record, I like Helen very much and have read some great stuff by her. I just think in this instance her arguments didn't hold up very well. just an opinion. No offence intended. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fierce-hairdo at 23:09, 05 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Lions For Lambs

Give it a rest, please!   I really cant see why some people are even registered on these forums, as all they seem to do is come on here, moaning about the content, the quality of the reviews, alleged bias,blah, blah,blah...  If Empire really p*sses them off that much, why the hell do you read it, and spend so much time on the site.  Yes, forums are for considered debate, but when you see people repeatedly coming on for their daily moan about the latest review, it becomes tire... More

Posted by axeman at 22:53, 05 November 2007 | Report This Post


26% on Rotten Tomatoes... says it all...

This gets 26% on Rotten Tomatoes which says it all really... and it was mauled by nearly every critic who saw it at the London Film Festival. As for Helens defence don't think we're doing a service to readers to focus most of our attentions on films that lots of people can't see, because they don't show at cinemas near them." think the service to us your readers is simply to provide informed criticism of ALL film releases regardless of their distribution. By focusing on films with ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fierce-hairdo at 21:52, 05 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

There's a simple truth as to why Empire devote so much attention to the Hollywood Blockbusters and that is money. The money that these studios have to throw at advertising, look at Empire it's just a brochure of advertisements. What is the ratio of adverts to written content? Perhaps Helen could enlighten me here, but who really pays her wages? Do the readers or the companies advertising in the Magazine? What percentage of income is made from magazine sales as opposed to advertising revenu... More

Posted by iamjacksass at 19:55, 05 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Helen OHara Lives of Others was our film of the week on release (I just checked), so we don't necessarily go with "bigger" films. air enough (although I'm not sure whether to feel flattered or patronised to be a "ray of trolly sunshine" uote] Now please take this discussion out of the review thread and back into one of the Empire threads where it belongs. ead digression is all part and parcel of a forum, but I'll leave it there. ... More

Posted by Axel Foley at 18:33, 05 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Though I havent actually seen the film I have to disagree with O'Hara's principles here.    I know the mag has to make money and all, and that means printing stuff about the most popular/accessible films, but surely by giving smaller films big attention they are going to be shown in more places, because there'll be more demand. All us readers are going to want to see a film that EMPIRE raves about, no matter how hard it is to see it. I'm not... More

Posted by ThismonkeyhasRAGE at 18:11, 05 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Well aren't you just a ray of trolly sunshine today Axel? Lives of Others was our film of the week on release (I just checked), so we don't necessarily go with "bigger" films. This week, we went with Lions because all of us here who saw it loved it. We don't just go on box office - it may well tank, other critics may well hate it, but we liked it a lot so why not cheer the courage of our convictions for a change?   As for the broadsheets' approach, they are of course welcome to fo... More

Posted by Helen OHara at 18:10, 05 November 2007 | Report This Post


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