The problem with Lions for Lambs isn't its political engagement but its cinematic disengagement. Robert Redford directs and stars in this ambitious talkathon, which would have been more effective as a radio play.
Redford is all flashing teeth and conscience as a professor intent on pushing a gifted but complacent frat boy in his political-science class (Andrew Garfield) into some commitment to our civic life. Tom Cruise is all flashing teeth and cunning as a hotshot Republican senator shopping a scoop about a bold strategic change in Afghanistan to a seasoned journalist (Meryl Streep). The movie is meant to demonstrate how escapism (on the part of the student) and resignation (on the part of the journalist) can be as crippling as fear and paranoia when it comes to setting the tone and direction of public life.
Lions for Lambs (United Artists) Starring Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford. Directed by Redford. Rated R. Time 88 minutes.