Sunday, 11 November 2007

Paul Byrnes thinks Lions for Lambs "a movie that engages with the biggest political issues of our time" and this, he says is "a cause for celebration". In fact, Byrnes says, director Robert Redford has "revive[d] the political movie". Which is patent nonsense. Recent blockbusters such as The Constant Gardner and this year's A Mighty Heart both fit the bill.

What this film is 'about' is spin.

The three strands Byrnes elencates all include individuals "addressing" the "issue" of the 'war on terror'. But Byrnes is correct to point out that this script is ideal for the theatre. Its launch in a vehicle designed for movie houses merely means the producers wanted the broadest range of outlets possible.

Andrew Garfield (pic) plays Todd, a political science student faced with an hour in the office of his lecturer, Dr Stephen Malley (Redford). The issue here is how to "make a difference". Malley tells Todd the story of two students who gained admission to the university through a sports scholarship, Arian (Derek Luke; who is black) and Ernest (Michael Pena; who is hispanic).

The two students appear at the start of the film, when the helicopter they are in is shot at while it flies over Afghani mountains. Ernest is hit and falls from the aircraft, Arian jumping, blind and into cloud, after him. He doesn't think, he just jumps, not knowing what is below.

The raid is introduced by Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) during his one-hour meeting with Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), a journalist. His aim: to convince her to write a 'good' story about "the implementation of a new strategy". Naturally, she isn't swallowing it whole.

A further, great, scene takes place back at her office. Here, the ANX editor (Kevin Dunn) tries to get Janine to run the story just as the senator gave it to her. He is frustrated by her scruples. As happened when she brought up historical precedents with Irving, the editor is frustrated by her broad grasp of history, specifically that of Vietnam. He practically threatens to fire her.

It should also be noted that Janine got the story because she was the first journalist to recognise Irving's potential five years earlier, when he was just starting out.

So the film is really about how we 'imagine' events at home and abroad. The constraint seems to be bandwidth. It is just not possible, it seems, to imagine the Taliban (whose soldiers are shown in a satellite link-up advancing toward the two black smudges representing the American soldiers, stranded on a mountain pass) in any other guise than a manifest, irrational threat.

Also of note is the tag cloud on the Web site.

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