Lions for Lambs:
Robert Redford – director, actor
Meryl Streep – actor
Tom Cruise – producer, actor
Michael Pena – actor
Derek Luke – actor
Andrew Garfield – actor
Matthew Michael Carnahan – writer
Redford’s latest directoral effort (last in 2000: Bagger Vance) is a subject clearly close to his heart; and something he wanted to bring close to you. I don’t actually recall a film that made such extensive and involving use of close-up. It more than brings you into the action, it brings you into the conversation.
As an actor he brings all his years on that side of the camera with him. Depth without histrionics and gesticulation. And with the nuance of Claude Rains asking Humphrey Bogart “So Rickie, what were you planning to do with those letters of transit?” (not really dialogue from Casablanca)
Kudos to Andrew Garfield who holds his own quite well against this.
The characters played by Michael Pena and Derek Luke are what this is film all about. They make what could so easily have been played shallowly and hackneyed a little jewel of optimism glinting in the cold darkness of war. Duty and honor.
Meryl Streep, what can I say. Always superb, even in something as stupid as Adaptation (2002 with Nicolas Cage). Here she is the representation of what used to be called “the screeching liberal press” only nearly completely co-opted by the ‘buckocracy’ and now sinking into a silenced menopause. Any aspiring actor should study each scene with Streep, particularly one in the middle of the interview with Senator Jasper Irving. Emotion plays across her face so kaleidoscopically you almost hear the gears in her head grinding and stripping as she starts to realize what the senator is saying, and doing, to her.
Cruise has grown so much as an actor since Risky Business and Color of Money I think he can’t be the same person, but he is. Rarely has there been presented such a tight, precisely polished, pile of slime as Cruise portrays Senator Jasper Irving. This is not a stereotype of a politician this is THE archetype.
Set decoration, by Leslie Pope, places the characters in a deep environment that flits and flutters around the edges of the close-ups.
Mark Isham’s score weaving behind builds an emotional undercurent that makes this a rather dark film for one mostly set in daylit offices.