Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lions For Lambs

We recently watched a DVD of Lions For Lambs, a movie with such big names in the cast it should have been unbeatable. Redford, Streep, Cruise - any name alone enough to carry a film to greatness, although together not enough to pull this film off.

The story of the film was good too, soldiers and war and politics and reporters and apathetic college kids, all elements which could have made a riveting film. The individual performances were good too - but the movie never allowed all of the fine pieces (actors and storyline) to shine. What could have been a blockbuster fizzled due to pussy-footing and pansying around.

I guess the makers of the movie were afraid to call a pig a pig. They were trying to say that the government made very huge mistakes in recent war efforts, without ever criticising the governement. The movie was trying to open eyes so that we wouldn't continue to make mistakes, and would make better choices in the future. But it never really took the stand and came right out and said it. The movie tried to make the case that the media is part of the problem, without ever coming out and saying it.

Were they afraid of offending anyone? This could have been so much better a movie, and won awards, and had the chance to make a difference.

On a more interesting note though, the title comes from a quote attributed to a German General during WWI. Wikipedia says:

The name of the film is derived from a remark made by a German officer during World War I, comparing British soldiers' bravery with the calculated criminality of their commanders. While several reviewers in the UK have criticized the film for misquoting the commonly used phrase of "lions led by donkeys", in an article on the origin of the title, The Times wrote without attribution:
One such composition included the observation, 'Nowhere have I seen such Lions led by such Lambs.' While the exact provenance of this quotation has been lost to history, most experts agree it was written during the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest clashes in modern warfare. While some military archivists credit the author as an anonymous infantryman, others argue that the source was none other than General Max von Gallwitz, Supreme Commander of the German forces. In either case, it is generally accepted to be a derivation of Alexander the Great’s proclamation, 'I am never afraid of an army of Lions led into battle by a Lamb. I fear more the army of Lambs who have a Lion to lead them.

I was much more intrigued by the accepted origin of the quote from Alexander the Great. What a good point, an army of lambs led by a lion is much more effective than an army of lions led by a lamb. Imagine the VietNam conflict or the current situation in the mid-east if we had an army of lambs led by a Lion. Both outcomes would have been markedly different.

This film could have been a box office smash, an artistic smash in terms of awards, and it could have made a difference in the political world. By trying to tip-toe around things a get the point across in a subtle way the makers of the film managed to be a flop at the box office, a flop in the awards, and a flop in the real world.

Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe and call a pig a pig.


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