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Films like Lions for Lambs make writing a review a slippery slope. If I praise the film I am assumed to praise the message. If I slam it I must be defiant to its cause. But that is not the case. If I appreciate Silence of the Lambs it does not mean I am on board with eating my neighbor’s liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. Maybe I like it because of the writing and the superb acting. If I despise a film like Radio it doesn’t mean that I am against the advancement of the mentally challenged. It just means it was terribly hokey and manipulative in its sappiness. I could care less what your message is saying if you can’t make a film worth watching. So now that we are clear, let us begin.

Lions for Lambs parades its actors across the credits like a military intimidation tactic. Redford, Cruise, Streep. The big guns. Redford not only acts in but directs this story told within three stories. The plot revolves around a military maneuver taking place in the war against terror and how it affects the lives of different individuals. You see the main event unfold as the six central characters discuss, react and defend the war we are currently in. Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) is the seasoned news journalist discussing this exclusive new military strategy with a top senator (Tom Cruise). All the while the event is being carried out by two young military men (Derek Luke and Michael Peña) fighting to better their country. A Political Science professor (Robert Redford) is discussing the cause and effects of our own personal actions with a talented student (Andrew Garfield) who is tired of the current politics. Each story line weaves the tapestry for the movie as a whole.

The writing is brilliant and brought to life flawlessly by its three main deliverers. Streep, as always, exceeds expectations. She can make the smallest movement in a scene become relevant and character developing. No attention to detail is left out and it is done so seamlessly that it is no longer acting but personified real life. She is not performing, but being. And it must be said that the writing does produce thought. You can’t walk out of this film without thinking about where we are in our country. Agree or disagree with the message, you will have to form an opinion, regardless.

The message itself becomes a character. You either love it or hate it, but you can’t avoid it. You can’t put it aside. You have to engage it.

What impressed me about this film too was the fact that it didn’t take 3 hours to say what it had to say. It didn’t try to impress me with a lot of pompous regurgitation like some know-it-all windbag who just won’t shut up. It stood there, stated its case and sat back down. Many films could take a lesson in this. Writers and directors these days think that we should be honored to be in the presence of their feats of greatness for hours at a time (my reviews excluded of course), when in fact we just want a good film. My thoughts, if you can’t do it in 90 minutes, you probably can’t do it in 120 either.

Lions for Lambs is Rated R for some war violence and language. Again, if you want to see a well done film with superb acting then this is your baby. But if you can’t check your political views at the box office, be ready to get emotional. Some will cheer its charge while others will snarl at its sensationalism. I admit I am becoming a little tired of the endless stream of political war pieces of late. I am well aware that we are in a crises and I have the talking bobble heads on TV constantly reminding me of both sides. But I am here to critique the film, not the war or those in control of it. Therefore, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars and stripes. And God bless the USA.

Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and co-hosts a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website http://www.mungleshow.com/

Review copyright 2007 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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