Lions for Lambs

Release Date: November 9, 2007

Movie of the Day for Tuesday, October 30, 2007
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190/214 Max Braden A rehash of the same old arguments that goes nowhere. More interesting is wondering whether Cruise believes in his role or took it to challenge himself.

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Some stuff happened to Tom Cruise last year. Maybe you heard about it. The short version is that he jumped on Oprah's couch, scared off most of his loyal fans, frontlined a fantastic movie that hugely underachieved due to the negative stigma of its star, was fired by his long standing movie studio, had a baby, rebuilt a formerly great movie studio, and picked his next movie. That final aspect got drowned out by the media frenzy for the other stuff, particularly a driving need to get pictures of his baby, Suri. This is particularly odd given the fact that Suri is not his first child. Don't the other two feel a little left out by all of this attention the TomKitten is gettin'? But I digress.

The point is that Mr. Cruise finally got off the couch (takes on a different meaning with him, doesn't it?) and decided to do something about his career. He re-launched United Artists, becoming the co-leader of the studio, and he promptly cast his favorite actor, Tom Cruise, in Lions for Lambs. Needless to say, there is a lot riding on this project. So, it was an imperative for Cruise to select a title that would alleviate much of the tension between him and his alienated fan base. That's what makes this production such an unexpected choice. In a year that has already seen Iraqi War themes lead In the Valley of Elah, Rendition and Home of the Brave to vanish out of theaters effectively unwatched, we can draw one conclusion from North American audiences. They do not want to watch movies that remind them of why watching the news is so scary these days. They want to go to the theater to escape from the fear and frustration that comes from living in a world of terrorism and war. This is bad news for Lions for Lambs.

What about this project made Cruise decide it was the perfect choice for his comeback? It's the story, he says. Lions for Lambs examines the lives of two students who are so passionate about the advice of their professor to try to make a difference that they decide to join the military and head to Afghanistan. This devastates their teacher, Dr. Malley, who had hoped that his wisdom would in no way imperil his best students. Frustrated by their practical application of his advice, Malley begins to wage a battle of ideology with another, more influential pupil who is much less interested in doing the right thing. Meanwhile, a right wing Senator with aspirations for the presidency gives a reporter what could be potentially the story of her career. Its existence has a dramatic impact upon both soldiers as well as the professor, creating a series of three story arcs that all tie together in the end. Cruise follows the Collateral playbook here by acting against type as the Senator whose ambition may exceed his sense of honor and decency.

The good news is that the cast of Lions for Lambs is the gold standard. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) Robert Redford (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and Cruise frontline the project. Redford also directs for the first time since his 2000 release, The Legend of Bagger Vance. The script is written by screenplay artist of the moment Matthew Michael Carnahan, who also penned the similarly themed Peter Berg movie, The Kingdom. Perhaps as a way to tie the thematic similarities of the two titles together, Berg co-stars in Lions for Lambs. The presence of Redford behind the lens would be more than enough to make this project one of the most engaging on the 2007 schedule. He has directed six previous productions and five of them were either critical or box office hits. Only the aforementioned Bagger Vance was a disappointment across the board. Even so, it is the presence of Cruise in this title that makes it so intriguing.

Lions for Lambs is a stubbornly preachy political epic that will either be a huge factor this awards season or it will secure Cruise's fate as a faded, former box office draw who has become no more than the Britney Spears of the movie world. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for Lions for Lambs
Main Cast Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford
Supporting Cast Michael Pena, Derek Luke, Andrew Garfield
Director Robert Redford
Screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan
Distributor United Artists (MGM)
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating R
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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