Lions for Lambs

  • Review Date: April 7, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Intense war thriller offers food for thought.
  • Review Date: April 7, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 88 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

To a certain extent, everyone in the film displays curiosity and intellectual rigor, which drives them to seek out answers. A professor makes an impassioned plea for youth to be more interested and involved in society. Two men give up their lives for their country, while back home a jaded journalist redevelops a sense of justice.


A fair amount of realistic war violence. There are battles, and gunshots are fired; during a skirmish, a soldier incurs a nasty compound fracture, which is shown in close-up. Lots of verbal sparring.

Not applicable

Language includes "bulls--t" and "damn."


Not too many brands, though many mentions of Republicans and Democrats and newspapers and TV channels.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this political drama/thriller is too intense for tweens and younger teens. A frank (and somewhat didactic) examination of the cost of war both at home and on the battlefield, its arguments are both complicated and hard to digest. Plus, there's a fair amount of war violence -- including some realistic battle scenes and a nasty wound shown up close -- and some strong violence. But it's not gratuitously bloody, and most of the content is age-appropriate for older high schoolers, who might find plenty to think about based on the discussions between the professor and his student.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and directed by Robert Redford, LIONS FOR LAMBS follows three intertwined storylines that all happen simultaneously. In the first, political science professor Stephen Malley (Redford) attempts to resuscitate social activism in Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield), a student who once displayed promise. But Todd is now jaded, nearly convinced that making money is more important than making his country better. Meanwhile, two of Malley's former students, Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke), fight for their lives while stranded in the mountains of Afghanistan, where they're part of a covert military operation. And back in Washington, hawkish, ambitious Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) tries to sell a new-but-dangerous strategy to a cynical reporter, Janine Roth (Meryl Streep).

Is it any good?


Watching Lions for Lambs feels a lot like taking your medicine: It may be good for you, but it doesn't go down smoothly. In this case, the ailment is the malaise that sets in when a country -- here, the United States -- sends its young men and women to fight a war that goes on indefinitely. The storylines seem like the recipe for a thoughtful, provoking piece of cinema. Which it is, on some levels. The push-pull dynamic between the journalist and the senator is fascinating and, it seems, fairly on the money. But Lions for Lambs is also didactic and dogmatic. Viewers are often told what to think instead of being given the chance to discover the truths the movie aims to convey. Actually, it all feels a lot like a poli-sci lecture, albeit one with great actors.

Cruise is brilliant here, subduing his usual manic tendencies and exhibiting an almost menacing penchant for control that serves his character very well. He goes toe to toe with Streep, who's superb as usual. Of the movie's three sections, Redford's storyline suffers most from inertia. Yes, he holds the camera's gaze, but the conversation between him and his "student" feels curiously dispassionate -- ironic, considering that he's trying to light a fire under the kid. And while it's certainly moving, the soldiers' section is predictable. Too bad you can't say the same thing about resolving war and other conflicts.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the statement the movie is making about war. What messages does it send about the toll that war exacts on both soldiers and those at home? Do politicians consider the personal cost of war? What is the role of diplomacy? And what is society's responsibility in regards to the country's political and social problems? Families can also discuss why war is a theme in so many movies. What about it both fascinates and horrifies us? Can movies (and other media) help make sense of war? Why or why not?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 8, 2007
DVD release date:April 7, 2008
Cast:Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Tom Cruise
Director:Robert Redford
Studio:United Artists
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some war violence and language.

This review of Lions for Lambs was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written bydrummerkid September 6, 2009

Appropiate for 13+, but they probably would find it boring anyway

It wasn't much of anything. There were a few short sequences showing soldiers, and only one firefight which is realistic, but not graphic. The rest of the movie consists mostly of a college student talking to his professor about political issues, mainly the war. Also, a reporter interviews a congressman. These scenes of dialogue are where most of the language occurs.
Adult Written bySusanTree April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Thoughtful - Worth seeing

I thought that this movie did a good job of portraying the conviction, motivations, and dilemmas of the characters. The admonition of Redford's character to the apathetic student that "Rome is burning" and "Do SOMEthing!" I think are timely for many young (& not so young)people who are disenchanted with government, and simply want to live "the good life." It is a call to political & social action, in whatever form and for whatever cause one believes in. I think that the violence is no worse than many PG-13 movies, and that intellectually mature teens of 15 & up could see it. They are certainly being recruited by that age; they should know some of the issues.
Parent of a 13 year old Written bycolten97 October 11, 2012

A movie that really makes us think

As you see, I'm not an American, though I liked this movie very much. I don't think it's against Bush or against the war in Iraq in particular. It's against unfairness, lies and indifference, so the message is really complex. I don't even see it as an average political drama -- it does touch the problems of politics, but the range of problems is much wider. I believe that the movie wouldn't be a good one without good actors. I'm not a fan of Tom Cruise, although he did his job quite well - the problem is that marvelous Meryl Streep outshone him. I found the performance of Robert Redford quite good, although I still think that he's a better director than an actor. As you see, this movie does have some weak sides, but the message it carries makes an outstanding piece.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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