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“Lions for Lambs” (2007) by Robert Redford Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jun 13th, 2022


Lions for Lambs the movie, directed by Robert Redford was released in 2007. The script was written by Matthew Michael and Carnahan. Three great actors, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise have acted in the film and while Tom Cruise plays the role of senator Jasper Irving, Meryl Streep plays the role of a journalist Janine Roth and Robert Redford plays the role of a college professor Dr. Stephen Malley. The movie hits out at the war in Iraq by suggesting that Lions are valiant men who are fighting a war for meek and submissive leaders who are compared to Lambs. The movie was made to show the war and the leaders in a negative role and was actually an antiwar movie. However, the movie got a very bad response from moviegoers. With the current outcry among US citizens and other European nations that are fighting in Iraq, the movie was meant to highlight the senseless torture and death that befalls countless soldiers who come face to face with death every day (Rotten Tomatoes. 2007).

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Tom Cruise the ‘would be’ presidential hopeful has called Meryl Streep to get her to report about a new military initiative in Afghanistan. The initiative calls for small advance forward operating points to capture strategic locations in the mountains before the Taliban can move to this position. Cruise hopes to get a favorable report from Streep so that the public would see this as an excellent initiative. Streep has her own reservations and doubts about this initiative and does not want to be a supporter of government plans on war but she agrees at least to cover what is going on. In the meantime, Redford has convinced two of his students Derek Luke and Michael Pena to make something better out of their lives and they join the US Army and decide to fly to Afghanistan. When Derek Luke and Michael Peña are flying across Afghanistan, their helicopter comes under enemy fire and Michael falls out and Derek also jumps out to be with him. Michael is badly injured and he cannot walk and they both are carrying little ammunition. The Taliban arrive just then and the two ‘Lions’ soldiers start fighting at them and soon their ammunition runs out. The helicopter pilot alerted his base and help is on the way but slow in coming as the ‘Lambs’ or the leaders think about what best can be done. With their ammunition gone, the ‘Lions’ rather than be caught alive stand-up and face the enemy with their empty guns. The Taliban finish them off and other activities such as the story of another student of Redford, Todd Hayes played by Andrew Garfield comes into the frame. The frames are juxtaposed to show different events such as a singer’s interview and announcement of the new initiative by Cruise come on the screen. The movie ends with a bitter fight between Streep and her commercial-minded boss (Bradshaw, 2007).

The movie has an adequate intent and strong goals, but in the movie, the lambs are actually the military commanders who are actually brave soldiers and go on the field during the fighting. While it is true that policymakers and politicians are behind the war, the linkage to the theme of the lions and lambs as seen in the movie creates confusion. While the argument that war in Afghanistan is contested by anti and pro-war supporters, the manner in which the roles have been cast is wrong (Wesley, 2007).

The movie, while it has great acting by the main actors has a number of irrelevant scenes that take away the seriousness and punch. The side story of Redford and Andrew Garfield has no bearing on the main theme. The tone of the film is preachy and neither tells the story of the poor soldier or the politician but adopts a preachy attitude that bores the audience. It is difficult to make out what Redford is up to. Is he acting as a recruitment officer for the US army or he wants to suggest that if you nothing to do, go to Afghanistan and join the army, but that is not his real intention and he wants to only move people out of lethargy, but he has no idea of what students are expected to do. There are some interesting dialogues in the movie and they seem to have been inspired by some politician. Cruise says “It is my responsibility, it’s part of my job description to protect the American people and that is why we put this new strategy into motion now”. Another dialogue he says is “Do you want to win the War on Terror? Yes or no?”. These dialogues are said during interactions with Streep (IMDB. 2007).


The movie has not done well at the box office and this may be because of the disgust and disillusionment of the public toward war movies. Many people have sons and brothers fighting in the war and the movie brings back cruel memories that have to be relived. While the film has good acting, the preaching and endless pontificating finally become very boring and the many divergent sub-themes make the movie lose its way.


Bradshaw Peter. 2007. Review. 2008. Web.

IMDB. 2007. Memorable quotes for Lions for Lambs. 2008. Web.

Rotten Tomatoes. 2007. Lions for Lambs Critic. 2008. Web.

Wesley Morris. 2007. . 2008. Web.

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