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Friday, September 22, 2023


Lions’ shows trials of war in true light

Nobody wants to see a war film right now. We are much like we were in the 1950s, when only one film relating to the Korean War, 1959’√Ñ√¥s Pork Chop Hill, was produced.

But if one could suspend his cognitive dissonance for just a measly hour-and-a-half, he might find a sense of comradery in the disjointed poignancy of Robert Redford’√Ñ√¥s Lions for Lambs.

The story is not clear-cut, as it begins in the present, six years after Sept. 11.

Meryl Streep plays Janine Roth, a veteran journalist 40 years deep into her career, balancing her personal values against deadlines and high hats. She sometimes haughtily sees herself in the right, if there is a clear right, though she questions the corporate agenda she stands for as a participant in a circuit she concedes is run by the same people who sell soap and light bulbs, churning out news much like cans of olive oil.

Tom Cruise plays Jasper Irving, a Republican senator who, like most politicians, denies his political agenda. He invites Roth to his office, minus public relations support, for a little one-on-one conversation to clue her in on a new plan for victory against terror in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

Irving clearly articulates the perceived threat to our nation, what mistakes we have made and what we need to do to get out of this bed we’√Ñ√¥ve made. He hopes to win back the public and the respect of the rest of the world, while redefining our intentions, using the same words we Americans are no doubt tired of hearing: Axis, evil and terror.

As a top graduate of West Point and Harvard, Irving speaks from all the credentials and words that could’ve made him a corporate fortune or a presidential hopeful. He also speaks from something else: a love of his country. He speaks as a father speaking about his children, and as a man with a plan to gain an upper hand, push forward and keep learning.

The love of one’s country is further illustrated through four other roles: political science professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford), his student Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield) and two former students who joined the army in hopes of making a difference and one day attending graduate school.

Lions is deeply effective because the viewer is provided the opportunity to feel empathy from all sides of the situation. It creates space for the viewer to see a piece of himself in all the characters as human beings struggling in an ambiguous scene.

College students may pay heed to Hayes, who is jaded by the ongoing puppet show, choking on propagandist evidence and frowning on his own plight. He tells himself he could just stay busy with his frat brothers and be OK floating on with his intelligence, enough to do decently. He enjoys the luxuries this country affords him, such as beautiful girls and several years of partying, before joining the "real world."

But the best thing about this film is that it doesn’√Ñ√¥t offer any solutions. How could it? Just as in Vietnam, Hollywood can’√Ñ√¥t afford the luxury of giving us some over-the-top, fictionalized victory.

But through its equally balanced character studies, it is an accurate depiction of a country in shambles and a picture of the search for honesty in an exceedingly gray time.

Lions raises an important, very human question, "Are we doing enough?" And also, what does "no matter what it takes’ stand for?"

My suggestion is to go see this film and find out.

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