The film was more intellectually engaging than say, The Kingdom or Rendition (but that is not saying much) yet still came across as trite…but then again Redford was deft enough to realize not to delve too deeply on the issues regarding what motivates us as individuals and on the “War on Terror”, vast topics that tends to polarise (or…paralyse) people, lest it might just alienate the movie going American public whose Friday night entertainment peaks at the level of Bee Movie…or whose general knowledge seemingly regresses to primary school level as one gets older…
The tryptich plot, if you can call it that, does not actually visually intersect but is made to intertwine like a braid by the audience’s mental participation of digesting and assimilating the staccato questions and conundrums thrown out like pretzels to the movie-goers (now…don’t choke on ‘em).
Charming Senator Irving (played by everyone’s favourite alien, Tom Cruise) announces exclusively a “new strategy” on the “War on Terror” to the veteran but seemingly naive reporter Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) as a favour, delivering neo-con sound-bites without offering any evidence and blithely admitting “past mistakes” but then goes on repeating more new ones.
Two model soldiers (played by Michael Peña and Derek Luke) who fought the much tougher war of gettin’ outta the ghetto and into higher education are shown to be lionised examples of American patriotism, honour and conviction by having volunteered to fight the war implemented by baa-aaa-ad lambs but end up just being cannon fodder.
Then you have the privileged slacker but very bright student (Andrew Garfield) being given a one-on-one sanctimonious dressing down by a Californian Professor of Political Science (Redford) in order to motivate him to…translate his apathy into action that…THIS WAR IS A TRAGIC WASTE OF HUMAN LIFE. Oh shit…I just gave away the entire plot and message.
It’s sneakily anti-Bush but plays out fairly balanced no matter what side of the political divide you happen to be in…if your whole idea of politics is from a Western centric POV. All we see are American faces. We (might) care for the American faces. We (maybe) cheer for the American faces. We (I sincerely doubt) cry for the American faces. The Afghans are reduced to mere mutterings in the snow and moving black dots on a screen…to be blown to bits by American military hardware like the hapless dime-a-dozen commie bastard Vietcong in Rambo First Blood Part II. I mean who cares on how the policies of the “War on Terror” impacts on others because as Senator Cruise explicitly states, it is the USA that has been attacked! And oh yeah, this film is hardly going to be a box-office draw in Kabul or Tehran.
‘Liberal’ has somehow become a dirty word in American politics and I doubt Redford’s friends see much capital gain from this lite-film (check out the Celebrity Liberal (or Celiberal) Whine Rack and List!) but to be fair, as director and actor, he has done a reasonable job of avoiding the highly tempting route of providing answers but chooses instead to simply rehash the questions that many are now openly asking and is thus a useful catalyst for stoking the fires of debate and discourse before we all return to our comfortable cloistered existence.