Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Lions for Lambs" Plot Summary Overview

Looking for something new to read? Here's a short summary of Lions for Lambs.  See if you'd be interested in it...

Movie Title: Lions for Lambs 
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan 
Directed by: Robert Redford 
Produced by: Robert Redford, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tracy Falco, Andrew Hauptman 
Released In: November 2007

Summary by Josephine Ramirez

Lions for Lambs

Plot summary:

   Society has always had active and passive citizens or participants in its operations or regular procedures. Active, vigilant citizens are usually more aware of their rights and are typically more acquainted with the way the government functions, and hence, are much more in sync with current political trends and issues. But what about those who are not as active or who have lesser interest in politics and public affairs? Being apathetic is synonymous to being selfish and less involved with the way society works, but there are just some individuals who prefer to be such, and it is an even more difficult feat to convince them to alter their beliefs. Despite the presence of many followers in political rallies conducted by popular political figures, there are more individuals – on the back end – who couldn’t care less, are less concerned and would just like to go on with their normal routine of getting on with their personal, family and work lives and not be bothered by other issues which are “not really their problem”. But what about the overall picture? America's future is certainly doomed if it continues to avoid involvement in politics and public affairs, hence, it is recommended that more active participation should take place among its citizenry.

This is exactly the subject that is brought forward in the movie Lions for Lambs, a 2007 movie directed by Robert Redford. From the movie’s title, you wouldn’t have the faintest idea what the movie is really about unless you get to see the film from beginning to end. Some argue that the film is preachy is more ways than one since it is a hackneyed topic (about war) and the discussions between Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) and the popular journalist Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), plus the dialogues between Professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) and his students Todd, Arian and Ernest seem to just go on and on in circles. Nevertheless, the film’s climax when Arian and Ernest stand up bravely to meet their end in enemy territory is the film’s saving grace, and is remarkably one of the film’s more unforgettable highlights.

In spite of the film’s flaws, the issue of apathy in society is a significant concern which this movie raises and which actually requires urgent attention. In the face of the seemingly never-ending battle for supremacy in these Middle East territories, the US still continues to forge on with the arms race and assert its continuing existence in the region. The war issue has become an everyday fare with regards to the US-Middle East relations, and as such, the same issues are seen on almost all media, and it’s no wonder that the ordinary person would prefer to have a glimpse of peace in the world rather than the opposite.

Notwithstanding this general yearning to have peace and harmony, it is not acceptable to be indifferent or apathetic for some varied and valid reasons:

Public officials may be elected or appointed, but they owe it to their constituents to provide the service that is expected of them. After all, they get their wages from the taxpayer’s money. Too, involvement in politics and public issues is highly-expected from them since they are part and parcel of the public system. Furthermore, despite the public officials’ active “involvement” when it comes to current issues and in facing the press, they should also be more engaged in the welfare of those who are sent out to war. Just like the way Senator Irving was much concerned with the new tactic they were implementing in Afghanistan, there is also an expectation from him to also make great effort at securing the safety of the soldiers. Sadly, this was not shown in the film and from the way the character of the senator was portrayed by Tom Cruise. He seemed very complacent with the way things were going from his current standpoint – at the back of his desk in his office, comfortable, safe and content with his stature.

If public officials would be less involved and less concerned with the citizens, then it would be highly-likely that they would have lesser adherents, more critics and this would spell the ultimate downfall of their political career. Lesser trust would also imply having lesser supporters. If the person were someone like Senator Irving who has more affiliation with his tactics than the soldiers, then it can also be anticipated that there would be lesser soldiers who would sign up and lesser recruits who would continue fighting for the government’s interests.

Media personnel are customarily more aware and have more advanced knowledge of issues because it is a standard requirement of the trade. No media man would want to be labelled as ignorant especially when it comes to current trends and information, and of course, a background knowledge of related issues would also come in handy. Involvement in political and public affairs is made apparent in the way Janine Roth gave her reactions to the answers made by Senator Irving in the interview she conducted. “How do we know you’re going to make it right this time?”, “Yes, here we are now. And don’t you think it might be critical to examine how we got to this point?”, “We took Iraq? How did I miss that?” are just some of the sample provocative questions raised by Ms. Roth which any interviewee would somehow be challenged to answer in a more substantial way. It is fortunate that someone such as Roth exemplified someone who was morally upright by the way she declined from writing the article about her interview with the senator on the basis that it would merely be another propaganda, and not really mapping out the factual details of what was taking place in Afghanistan.

It would have been easy for Roth to just fire away and write about the interview and make the article look like an exclusive story straight from a very popular senator. However, her social responsibility as a journalist took over her more practical side, hence, her real story didn’t come out, although it is not mentioned in the film how the news flash at the bottom of the TV screen on the movie’s last few scenes became possible.

Then again, teachers/mentors are also commendable for being involved in social issues like the character portrayed by Robert Redford, Professor Stephen Malley. Having professors who not only teach academics but also about current problems/concerns are instrumental in giving enlightenment to their students not only about the issues, but also in seeing the potential in the students to grow into something more than how they perceive themselves. This allows the student to come out of his/her shell, express himself/herself better, and to “think out of the box” and aspire for something bigger. The connection to political and public affairs is that it enriches the minds of the students and he/she does not confine himself/herself to what can be seen physically, but that there is a bigger world out there of which he/she is also a part of. It broadens ones horizons, makes the student more aware and lets him/her realize that there is more to life than meets the eye. Without the aid of the professors/teachers, this more expansive outlook just wouldn’t be possible.

Now, the previous argument is related to the students of Professor Malley – Todd, Arian and Ernest. Todd is the apathetic American student while Arian and Ernest are two of Malley’s students who because of poverty – not having enough money for graduate school – chose to enlist in the army after graduation. Arian and Ernest are deeply involved in the public issues because they have considerable knowledge about army troops, the Taliban, Bin Laden, etc. Somehow, Malley felt guilty for having talked his students into “putting themselves on the line in a meaningful way”, but Arian and Ernest could not be convinced otherwise, since they had it already planned out what they would do after becoming part of the army. “They believed the best way to change things in this country was to fight for it” is how Malley puts it.

On the other end of the scale was Todd, who was the antithesis of both Arian and Ernest. Malley tried to convince Todd that he believed in him, had confidence in his capabilities and that he could be someone bigger if he really pushed himself to do it. This is seen in the confrontation scene where Malley asks Todd: “What made you like this? What changed you?”. The character of Todd represents how a great portion of the populace behaves as regards politics and public affairs these days, and which is basically the main target audience of this film. The dialogue which takes place between Malley and Todd is a deep kind of conversation where the professor made Todd realize that he wouldn’t be enjoying his freedom now if not for the involvement of political leaders and the soldiers willing to offer their services for the country over and above their own personal wants and desires. In the final analysis, the “lions” point to the characters of Arian and Ernest – brave soldiers until the end – mainly because they became sacrificial “lambs” for the betterment of the lives of people like Todd. 

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