When Lions for Lambs (2007) was theatrically released I was hesitant to go and watch it, because of the recent erratic and unique behavior of one of the film’s major stars: Tom Cruise. In this film, he’s not the solo heavyweight actor who carries the entire production upon his shoulders. Cruise is joined by fellow renowned actors Robert Redford and Meryl Streep who have built their own separate reputations in the heavyweight category of dramatic acting. However, Redford and Streep are clearly separated from the likes of Cruise, because they don’t go around the talk show circuit jumping up and down on couches and claiming that postpartum depression is nothing but a mythical excuse for drug fiends (or something to that effect).
I point this issue out because I have a hunch that Cruise’s behavior in recent years may have influenced the interest of a lot of people who may otherwise have been sitting in a movie theater watching this film. It doesn’t seem like Lions for Lambs had lasted for very long in the movie theaters., and I cannot remember how long it was running at the local cinema. During its opening weekend, the film placed fourth in the top ten weekend earnings, and this was a cause of concern for Tom Cruise. Despite all the press that Cruise had been receiving for his strange behavior, he has a professional ally on his side. Redford vouches for him by publicly announcing positive compliments of Cruise’s professionalism on the set during the film’s production. Bonus points go to Cruise for his work ethics, and an A+ goes to Redford for sucking up to his lead actor.
Despite the awkward reviews from some of the public critics that described it as a film that begins with a promise, but drums on with the same vitality as an Off-Broadway theater production that lacks anything of value to say. Personally, I found the film to be an engaging and interesting story. I really could not find anything that I thought would be a tremendous hindrance from the film’s full value and potential as a wonderful fictional story. However, it is a large bite to swallow if the audience is expected to believe that a babyface Tom Cruise would be holding a political chair as a United States Senator, but that would be a statement of belief that is neither here nor there. The character he plays is a politician with a career on its way up the governmental ladder, and he maintains a personality filled with zeal and determination to accomplish lofty goals while he is in office.
The story is one of many new tales that would be spun from the offices of Hollywood moguls and scriptwriters who have found a new source of material in which they could produce their films without pulling another plot device from their pantry filled with stale ideas. The presence of American troops in the Middle East has become old news ever since the declaration of war has been announced in March of 2003. However, it will be used as a source of material for fictional films and documentaries for years to come. Lions for Lambs is another fictional venture into the domain of war stories about the Americans in the Middle East, and it serves as a reminder of how all the previous wars of the last century has spawned several war-related films. The decision to create a film based upon a current or previous war is neither bad nor good, but the methodological approach in telling the story could be damaging or a way to improve upon a dire situation.
Speaking only for my own personal interpretation of Lions for Lambs, I believe the film was an entertaining parable of war and differences. It is a film with delusions of grandeur by attempting to include an argument of persuasion that fails to change my own opinion of the war. Remember that I could only relay my own interpretation of the material that is presented in the film, but there were a few times when I felt like I was watching a game of checkers when the characters were pretending to battle in a game of chess. There are two primary arguments that are being debated in the film. Argument A is presented by Senator Jasper Irving (played by Tom Cruise) who wants to initiate a new plan of long-term sustainability in the Middle East with the highly visible American troops lingering around. The experienced television journalist Janine Roth (played by Meryl Streep) compares his plan to that of the Roman Empire, but he disagrees with her assessment.
Argument B is presented by collegiate professor Dr. Stephen Malley who is trying to convince an underachieving student that the future of the country rests in the hands of the next generation. In his argument, he presents the true fact that a large portion of the volunteers that join the ranks of the American military recruits from the lower economic classes and the American ghettos. Within the same breath, he points out the fact of complacency from the privileged youth, such as the underachieving student, who feels comfortable with his current status in life and doesn’t feel obliged to take a strong stand for his personal beliefs. In both arguments, there are two players who are either arguing for his or her side or trying to disprove the argument of their opponent. As each person takes a turn with a rebuttal argument there are big words and ideas that are thrown around, but nothing really seems to make a strong impression on me.
Hopefully, my review is not misunderstood to be a disapproval of the film’s quality as an enthralling and entertaining story. My experience within the field of professional debating is practically non-existent. But just like the rhythm of a written song, any argument could be felt and heard by the untrained ear. It is with practice and experience that a person could be able to nitpick the fine talking points of an argument to find its weaknesses. There is something that is missing in the two arguments that are presented in the film that would fulfill the primary purpose that every argument should accomplish if it is created and performed correctly. The main purpose of an argument is to persuade the listener over to the side of the speaker and reinforce the beliefs of its existing supporters. I was neither won over by the strengths of the given arguments in the film nor was I deterred to swing in the direction of the opposing side. At certain points in the film, I would agree with some of the talking points, while I disagreed with other valuable counterpoints. However, there was nothing about either argument that stood out with a strong arm and dragged me into taking action for either side.
Setting aside the weakness of the arguments I would like to point out that the film’s story was placed together well and I was highly entertained when I watched it. It may seem rather unusual to be describing my experience with this film as a sheer moment of entertainment, but that is the only way I could describe the experience. The editing was smooth enough to keep the viewer up to speed during the transitions between the three main stories that occur in the film without losing the pace between the growing intensity of the arguments between the characters. It’s a talkie film with a couple of scenes of war action, so it may have several dull moments in it for those viewers who are adjusted to watching action films. With everything summarized into a nicely wrapped conclusion, I would like to give this film a comfortable eight points out of ten possible. It deserves the rating for its skills of presentation, but it needs a little more help in the realm of persuasion.
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