In Lions for Lambs, a movie many conservative pundits call anti-American and typical liberal Hollywood propaganda, links the complexities of class and status to democracy and an ill fought war on terrorism. I am sure many of you who know me will not be surprised to hear how much I enjoyed this movie. Stephen Malley (played by Robert Redford), a political science instructor at a public research university in California, is portrayed as a liberal idealist who, much like myself, supports the American troops fighting but not the war. For one, it portrays liberal academics as compassionate leftist who are guarding the minds of the young from right wing political elitist looking to inculcate democratic injustices on the American people.
The most telling part of the movie comes when Redford’s character Malley is visiting with a privilege white upper-class student who has made little of his middle-class privileges. This student who contends that nothing ever changes and politicians are all the same, plays a pejorative role as a bright but spoiled frat boy who is too busy with his social life to care about political, social, and economic matters; it might be an age thing; I deal with a great deal of political, social, and global apathy on my campus.
In an indirect way, this film does more than address the paradoxical nature of democracy; it touches on matters of race and class. Below is a clip from the movie in which two of Malley’s students are giving a class presentation on the topic of diplomacy and engagement. They address the farce of democracy as it relates to the urban problem of crime and ghettoization. Arian Finch and Michael Pena (Malley’s students) address how much money is being spent engaging in global wars but how little the American government is addressing the problem of social inequalities and education.
Watch the clip below as Finch and Pena present their argument about the farce of democracy. At the end of their presentation, their classmates ridicule them for talking the talk but not walking the walk. What you will not see in this clip is that both of them place a transparency of their orders to report to military duty. Malley is shocked and disappointed that two of his hardworking students elected to skip graduate school and the econonimc opportunities that come with it for an unjust war.
Here is a brief movie review (see rest of review here):
And in the final path, two of Malley’s former students, Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke) are in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban in Irving’s masterminded offensive. Things aren’t going well for them – the intelligence reports are once again fouled – and both solders find themselves stranded in very hostile territory. Their commander Lt. Col. Falco (Peter Berg) is deeply troubled by the situation and tries everything in his power to rescue them. The abandoned men, while waiting for help, take the time to remember how they got in this situation and ultimately realize that they’ve got to rely on their own abilities if they are to survive. You can’t count on the government for anything. And while this was meant as a way to tie together the pieces of the movie into a nice bundle, it all seemed strangely staged. More displeasing to me was the use of this segment as a launching pad to find fault with our military.
Obviously, from a conservative standpoint, I would have liked to see more equal representation for the right. Irving tries to make his case, but writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, ends up making him into a war monger. I especially liked the added touch of having a plaque on his wall that read: If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness. However, Lions for Lambs does raise a few thought provoking questions while reiterating the tried andBush bashing that we’ve been privy to for the past few years. No matter the agenda, it’s worth a view and a subsequent talk around the water cooler at the job. I’m sure that’s music to the ears of the political forces that helped shape and release this movie.