Connecting the Dots Lions for Lambs provokes thought in this Hollywood age of action entertainment
by Doug French by Doug French
There is no question that the War on Terror will last forever. Just like the War on Drugs and the War on Poverty. War is the health of the state, as Randolph Bourne famously said. And as long as the masses are given a steady diet of bread and circuses and the Federal Reserve continues to print and the people accept ever-flimsier dollars, the fight against Islamic Fascism will march on, because lord knows if we don’t fight ’em over there, we’ll have to fight over here. The terrorists don’t have an army or a navy or an air force to launch this assumed invasion, but they hate us for our freedoms, don’t you know?
And if movie-going masses are any indication, the Neo-con Washington war machine has the people right where it wants them. Munching popcorn with their kids watching Bee Movie or sitting on the edge of their seats through Saw IV.
People know what they’re going to get from a Robert Redford film now that he is drawing Social Security checks. At 71, he’s no Sundance Kid anymore. He’s not even Bill McKay, The Candidate, asking, What do we do now? But at least Redford has the good sense to age gracefully instead of turning himself into a freak like Kenny Rogers.
Everyone knows Redford is the quintessential Hollywood liberal and the movie-going public is not interested in trading in their depreciating dollars to have Bob preach about the evils of the War on Terror. So, despite a heavyweight cast including Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, Lions for Lambs only banked $6.7 million its opening weekend, despite being in more than 2,000 theaters, and it will likely be downhill from there, because the overwhelming majority of critics hate the film.
Critic Kevin Carr calls the movie a preachy mess and Hollywood’s latest anti-U.S. stab at propaganda. It seems the critics don’t like movies where people talk a lot. They want action for crying out loud. Plus, film critics are smart, because, well, they figured out how to make a living going to movies and getting someone to buy and print their opinions about those movies. Therefore, critics don’t want to be preached at or scolded, and evidently neither does the movie-going public. Entertain me, dammit. I’m not here to think.
Redford’s Lions jumps between three connected storylines to make his point. In Washington, D.C., smarmy Republican Presidential hopeful Sen. Jasper Irving (Cruise) gives TV journalist Janine Roth (Streep) an hour of his precious time so that she can report his new war strategy for Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Senator’s scheme is launched with Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Pena) being transported with the rest of their small platoon into the snowy mountains of Afghanistan. At the same time, Dr. Malley (Redford) meets with a gifted, privileged and lazy student of his named Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield).
Arian and Ernest were former students of Dr. Malley’s who left the university to enlist in the U.S. Army to make a difference, disregarding Malley’s advice to stay in school. The professor spends an hour trying to motivate Hayes to make a difference instead of just getting by. Hayes is sardonically charming, and quite logical in his characterization of politics and Washington. He actually gets the better of the argument with his professor.
While the rich white kid sips Starbucks with his professor, the idealistic minority kids, Arian and Ernest, are part of what is clearly a suicide mission, concocted by West Point graduate, and now Senator, Irving. If Tom Cruise hadn’t been available, Sean Hannity could have played the part in his sleep. The Senator parrots the typical excuses and war bromides that we now hear every day on Fox or from Rudy Giuliani.
Weary veteran reporter Roth jousts with the Senator gamely, but ultimately realizes that she and the rest of the Fourth Estate are part of the problem, serving as government mouthpieces to spin every story Washington’s way. Roth wants nothing to do with selling the Senator’s plan, but her boss is all for it — exclusive stories drive ratings and ad dollars.
Meanwhile, Dr. Malley points out to the slacker Hayes that once he leaves college and is saddled with debt and family obligations, idealism will not be a luxury he can afford.
Janine Roth exasperatingly tells her boss that they in the media should have connected the dots, at the War on Terror’s start. The American public still isn’t connecting the dots, and doesn’t want to.
This article originally appeared in Liberty Watch Magazine.