A zealous congressman launches a new military strategy designed to win the war in Afghanistan and details it to a lefty journalist. Two friends, soldiers involved in the operation, are caught behind enemy lines due to bad intel. Meanwhile, their former college professor tries to re-engage a promising but disillusioned student. These are the people and events of Lions for Lambs.
The title refers (mistakenly) to a World War I quote about the brave sent to die by the capricious and the cowardly. In this Redford-directed, Cruise-produced and Redford-Cruise-Streep starring vehicle, the Lambs are clearly the vainglorious liars of the Republican party who dragged us all into a War on Terror without as much as a Gap Analysis to tell us where we were actually going and what we would do when we got there. This is a line of thinking that appeals to me immensely; sitting here at the far end of the planet, and not exactly plugged into to daily Security briefings at the Pentagon nor a particularly erudite student of military engagement, even I could have told you that Iraq had no wmds, that Saddam despised Bin Laden and there was (then) no Al Qaeda in Iraq, that the assault on the Taliban would be diverted and weakened by the opening of a second front, that incurious George is criminally responsible for the deaths of thousands of servicemen and women (let alone tens of thousands of Iraqis) and should be tried for his monumental incompetence and stupidity. There, I said it. And probably because of that, I quite enjoyed the film.
To be fair though, Lions for Lambs preaches (and I use that word advisedly – the film feels like a “message movie” adaptation of a couple of two hander plays written by someone trying to score political points) that we are all somehow responsible for the mess; the frat boy party animal for his cynical disengagement, the wizened hack for providing an unquestioning mouthpiece for the morally corrupt Bush regime, us, the audience, for sitting somewhere in between. Trouble is, as we’re being called to reconnect, we see the journalist quit, and once again we’re going in circles.
Lions for Lambs filmed mostly in California, with some establishing DC shots. The Afghan scenes played out in Rocky Peak Park in Simi Valley, CA – a popular hikers hang-out apparently.