Lions for Lambs

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Director: Robert Redford; Release date: 9 November

This is a high risk movie. It's an anti-war film that is not dressed up as a thriller, a love story or an action movie. Instead it is a bold political debate about the impact of the "war on terror" on every level of society played out by some of Hollywood's finest.

We move from Washington to California and Afghanistan, where the fate of two young idealistic US soldiers fulfilling the politicians' bidding hangs in the balance. They are the "lions led by lambs" - at one point an officer makes a final call to "dress warm" to troops about to embark on a perilous, politically driven mission, a request more appropriate to child off to play in the park. The ordinary soldiers are portrayed in a way that patriotic Americans will be comfortable with.

The pace and drama of the war scenes are in stark contrast to the considered debates that take place in the two meetings happening simultaneously on either side of the US which form the core of the movie. One, in Washington, is between harried veteran reporter Janine Roth (played brilliantly by Meryl Streep) who is invited into an unprecedented one to one briefing with ambitious Republican senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise). The other, less effective, discussion shows idealistic teacher Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) in a sunny book-lined college office trying to inspire a young privileged student, Todd (Andrew Garfield), to give up his slacker lifestyle and fulfil his potential.

Tom Cruise is always comfortable playing a driven, evangelical, alpha male. But this is not the hyper performance of Magnolia. Here he is measured and frighteningly convincing as a consummate politician keen to make his mark with a new and dangerous strategy to win the war in Afghanistan.

He speaks for the US ruling class when he says that "we need a win", and is "sick of being humiliated". His plan to hand Streep an exclusive and have her network win the public to his controversial new mission plan puts her integrity to the test and exposes media culpability in selling the "war on terror" to the US public.

Lions for Lambs has its weaknesses. Once again the lives and deaths of Afghans are never seen beyond flickering dots on a computer screen. The film can in places feel self-important and contrived, and on one occasion positively far fetched. But these flaws can't take away from the power of this movie and the wonderful acting at its centre.

The end feels sudden, as if the story is unfinished. But of course, in a way, it is. The "war on terror" continues but so does the movement of all of us who oppose it. As the credits roll we see silhouettes of a classroom of students, a protest, a questioning reporter and a collage of badges urging "Vote".

In each case one individual slowly fades away-lives lost maybe, but also the loss to democracy resulting from the war. This is an eloquent call to oppose the warmongers.