Robert Redford’s new film is a study in how media and politics reinforce the other and the tragic results of journalism’s failure to ask questions in the current war. Parallel to this storyline skillfully played by Tom Cruise as the arrogant and ambitious senator and Meryl Streep as the veteran journalist in an hour-long conversation, are two more. One of these is a storyline about a political science professor played by Redford, who is trying to get a student to become involved in the bigger events in the world (and come to class), events that mean something, but war isn’t what he has in mind. He uses the story of two of his most promising students who decided to make a difference in the world by getting off the gang-ridden streets of Los Angeles to fight the war in Afghanistan – when he meant to change the world where you are planted. While this conversation is going on, the two soldiers are deployed, during this same hour, to be part of a new war strategy proposed to the president by the above-said senator (based on a failed strategy used in Vietnam but the senator doesn’t want to think of the past only the future.)
This tightly wound drama that takes place almost in real time ends by showing the influence of television when a young man finally decides to do something meaningful.
I think Lions (wonderful, talented, intelligent young soldiers) for Lambs (men in white collars and suits who never get their hands dirty and don’t have a clue about combat) is a tough, not-so-subtle or enjoyable, statement of the current status of the war – the role of the media in the film’s view is unmistakable.
“Nowhere have I seen such Lions led by such Lambs” is said (in the film) to have been spoken by a German soldier during World War I after witnessing the slaughter of British troops at the Battle of the Somme. Thoughts of Peter Weir’s “Gallipoli” also come to mind as does Kubrick’s anti-war films “Paths of Glory” and “Full Metal Jacket.” The heartbreak and the tragedy of war and the culture it creates – as well as the culture that creates it.
“Lions for Lambs” is a good subject for media literacy study, I think – for itself and for its commentary on the role of media and war.
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