Lions for Lambs

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Lions for Lambs Movie Poster Image
Intense war thriller offers food for thought.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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.


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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMattL 1 July 2, 2015
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. I... Continue reading
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... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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