Professor Stephen Malley (played by Robert Redford) is a college professor of Political Science with a profound belief in doing what’s right and a deep conscience. He is an Vietnam Veteran and since his return he has endeavoured to educate all around him about the senselessness of war. One day he meets with one of his most promising students Todd Hayes (by Andrew Garfield) after Hayes shows signs of burnout and lack of motivation in class. The Professor and his student discuss a range of life issues – Malley uses this as a way to engender a spark of enthusiasm in Hayes. Along the way we learn of two other of Malley’s students who were so significantly moved by their learnings in his classes that they took action on their deep conviction to do what’s right. In a parallel story, we view the ongoing action of US troops in Afghanistan, carrying out dangerous manoeuvres to further the War on Terror. One action results in the potential ambush of two wounded and stricken US soldiers by Afghani insurgents and we watch as this perilous situation unfolds. Back in Washington DC, we also meet Senator Jasper Irving (by Tom Cruise) who wants to “move and shake” the War on Terror by instigating his own strategy. He meets with the long experienced journalist Janine Roth (by Meryl Streep) who he has called upon to report and promote his intentions to the voting public.
This movie promises much, but unfortunately is a little insipid in its delivery. The structure of the movie presents the viewers with three parallel scenarios and this is well done – it keeps the movie interesting, but much of it (apart from the military action) is merely a talk-fest. Having said that however, the performances are good – Redford and Cruise are strong, but also predictable. Meryl Streep’s character has a lot of potential but only finishes up as average – she starts off as a strong female character but unfortunately by the end the audience is left thinking of her as just another a jaded reporter. The most interesting story is of the two stricken US troops in Afghanistan; the best performance is from Andrew Garfield who at least injects a bit of colour and interest into his scenario. The stories do come together somewhat at the conclusion. As entertainment, it is okay at best, but it does have some interesting messages and you may well find yourself mulling over these for some time afterwards.
Made in 2007. Directed by Robert Redford