ROME (Reuters) - Robert Redford and Tom Cruise get serious in their new film “Lions for Lambs”, Hollywood’s latest take on U.S. foreign policy and the military fallout from the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The film brings together what at first seem three separate story lines, playing out simultaneously, to look at the sacrifice of U.S. soldiers, the relationship between politics and the media, and the need for young Americans to take a stand.
The first strand has an up-and-coming Republican senator, played by Cruise, trying to sell an “exclusive” over Washington’s new strategy in the war in Afghanistan to a television journalist, interpreted by Meryl Streep.
Meanwhile in California, Redford is a university professor confronting a gifted but lazy student to shake him out of political apathy.
Thousands of miles away, in Afghanistan, two U.S. soldiers who used to be Redford’s students are part of a small advance group sent out into the mountains to fight the Taliban.
Presenting his film in Rome on Tuesday, Redford, who returned to the director’s seat after a seven year break, was candid about his views but said “Lions for Lambs” did not attempt to give answers and only raised questions.
“Our country has hit a point where we have lost so much — we have lost lives, we have lost sacred freedoms, we have lost financial stability, we’ve lost our position of respect on the world stage.”
“For me the film is about the effect and the consequences of the last several years in my country and how that plays out in the area of the media, education and politics,” he told reporters.
With the only real action happening on the Afghan battlefield, the film’s biggest challenge is its lengthy dialogues.
Early reviews praised Cruise and Streep as the politician mixing personal ambition with a real belief in America’s role as a force for good, and the veteran journalist who feels she is being spoon-fed military propaganda.
“I read this and said look this guy has to be very real, we want it to be not a caricature but a real person with dimension and complexity,” Cruise said of his role.
Cruise, who showed up more than an hour early on the red carpet later on Tuesday to sign autographs, is also an executive producer of the film after taking over Universal Artists.
Redford, who famously played alongside Dustin Hoffman as one of the two journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal, said that U.S. media had largely bought the government’s line after the September 11 attacks without too much questioning.
But he said that it was America’s young people who had the most vital role to play to change things.
“Young people have to take command of their voice. Are they going to become active politically or are they going to move away from it because they are disgusted, disillusioned and they don’t respect it because there is no morality and leadership?
“If that happens we may have a continuation of what we had. Otherwise they can take a strong position for themselves.”