Lions for Lambs

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mrs. Smitty and I pawned Smitty Jr. off on the grandparents this weekend and had a day-long kid-free shop-a-thon.

And what did we buy, mostly? If you guessed "stuff for Smitty Jr." you'd be correct.

At any rate, one of the many things that we crammed-in yesterday was a viewing of Lions For Lambs. I must say, Mrs. Smitty and I were impressed. The movie really got us thinking, and it awakened a lot of thoughts that I had repressed and allowed to go dormant.

Quickly, so I don't give much away, it's about an hour and 20 minutes, give or take, in the life of 3 sets of people: a reporter (Meryl Streep) and her hour-long interview with an up-and-coming Republican Senator (Tom Cruise); a college student in a come-to-Jesus (and not the religious kind) meeting with his professor (played by an Andrew Garfield and Robert Redford, respectively); and 2 Army Rangers in a pretty shitty spot (played by Michael Pena and Derek Luke, two folks I've never ehard of but I'll give credit where it's due). Their three separate story lines converge, in a way.

It's more of a vignette. You come in to the story with events happening, and leave it without everything having been wrapped-up. I really like that as a device. But that's not all the movie does for you. For me, it left me asking what one of the characters would do. And in essence, it was like asking myself what I'd do.

Before I get into any philosphical discussions I guess I'll touch on the movie itself. Critics have been slamming this film and there's some folks out there who think it's emotionless and dull. Well, true, the only action scenes take place with the Rangers in Afghanistan. But you go to this movie to listen to what it says through its characters. And even from what they say, I imagine 2 different people with 2 different biases would come away with 2 different messages from this movie. That's pretty cool. Don't go to this movie looking for a Private Ryan-esque shooter or even a The Kingdom gripping thriller. It's not. It's 2 debates and 1 set of consequences. I found the movie to move very quickly despite the lack of action because the interplay of the 3 different stories, as well as the philosophy behind the dialogue, really moved it quickly forward.

This movie also doesn't wrap stuff up in a neat little bow for you. It makes you ask yourself what happens, and as I said above, it makes you ask yourself what you'd do. So if you need things wrapped up like a little present, don't go see this movie.

Speaking in broad terms, here's what it did for me. I am dissatisfied with our progress in the War On Terror. I don't think that stopping completely is the right answer. I see a different answer that involves engagement at many different levels; military, social and educational. But what can I do? I've served, honorably, in the military already for 8 years. I have a wife, a Smitty Jr. and a Thing 1 and Thing 2 on the I reenlist? My wife certainly doesn't want me to. But like the movie points out, talk is cheap if you can figure out a way to make a change, even if it ultimately brings you to the same place as doing nothing. But where I am stuck right now is what, exactly, can I do right now to institute change? Can I run for office and get my ass kicked by Congressman Mike Rogers (R - Brighton)? Not to mention I'm a political Nobody; just another lobbyist.... Should I try to attend the National Defense Institute? Maybe. But right now, I am dissatisfied with the current direction and dissatisfied with my level of involvement.

At any rate, go check the movie out. It's not a thriller folks, but it at least makes you ask yourself important questions: is the passion of those willing to continue or repackage the war misplaced? Is it bullshit? Is our media complicit? What would you do to change things?


Rickey Henderson 10:55 AM  

Yeah, Rickey saw it too and loved it a lot. Too many critics bashed the movie for containing characters that just sit around and hold intellectual arguments. But Rickey kind of dug it. Sure, the movie tells you nothing you didn't already know, but it asks you, "ok, so what the fuck are you going to do about this?"

It's more of a call to arms than anything else. Rickey doesn't have an answer either concerning what to do. Marching in a protest perhaps? That's a start...

steves 7:28 AM  

I'll admit that when I saw the initial comments on this film in EW I rolled my eyes. Not having seen the film, I won't comment on it, but my impressions were clouded by several things.

It looked preachy. I have some very mixed feelings about the GWOT and it is certainly a topic that should be explored. Maybe it is me, but Hollywood seems to have moved away from any thoughtful movies on political topics to just telling people what they should believe, which insults my intelligence. There are some exceptions. Munich did a good job and was fairly historically accurate.

The other reason is that I don't like Tom Cruise. He is a perfect example of someone that needs a good agent or manager. While celebrities are certainly entitled to their opinions and activism, most tend to come across as morons (e.g. Sheryl Crow telling people to use one square of toilet paper to save resources). Tom's antics on the Todays show in regards to his expertise on psychiatry and medicine were just idiotic. I am not suggesting a boycott of Tom, but I would rather see something like American Gangster or No Country for Old Men.

Most of the reviews were poor and seemed to say that the movie was "lecturing." EW had a little blurb on how poorly it and other recent films on similar topics have done.

B Mac 9:26 AM  

For the record, we must distinguish between the two Tom Cruises;

~The old school/Top Gun/A Few Good Men Tom Cruise = sweet.
~The current Tom Cruise = gigantic tool.

As for the movie, I haven't seen it yet, though I want to. I think a lot of the movie-going audience these days wants to simply sit back and have the movie do all the work. And that's not necessarily a terrible thing, but for that crowd, a movie like this might not be that entertaining.

Smitty 10:15 AM  

I gotta tell you, I didn't think it was preachy. In fact, different people took it vastly differently. One of my good friends thought it was an endorsement (not criticism) of American Imperialism...and that's a reaction that's a pretty far cry from a preachy liberal rag.

Cruise's character is believable...and even from my own perspective, I actually almost bought his lines.

Redford's conversation with his student could endorse enlistment in the armed forces just as easily as it could sound like it endorses protest. ALl it does is endorse action...whatever you want it to be.

No. This movie is far from preachy. You have to listen actively to it. And I bet most critics didn't.

steves 6:29 PM  

Your opinion is certainly just as valid as any critics. I think EW does a pretty good job of reviewing stuff, except when they review documentaries. They should really have someone that has some kind of expertise in the subject of the documentary. Steven King's reviews are also worthless. I wish they would just can him, but he only gets one page and isn't in every issue. They gave Lions... a B+, IIRC.

Smitty 10:31 AM  

Dammit, steves, you know that my opinion is the only opinion...

Did I ask, by the way, if your hunting venture was successful?

steves 11:22 AM  

No, the freezers are empty at this point, but I am probably going out a few more times down here, either on public land or on a private plot a few miles from my house. Unfortunately, this area does not allow rifles and I don't have a slug gun. I do have a pistol set up for hunting, but I have never used it to take game.

I did have a good time, though. I saw plenty of other animals and was able to kick back and relax.

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