The star-studded political thriller Lions for Lambs, which cost $35 million to make, opened at number four at the box office over the weekend and brought in a surprisingly low $6.7 million. The first release from Tom Cruise’s United Artist studio was directed by Robert Redford and stars Cruise, Redford, and Meryl Streep. With similar films like Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, and A Mighty Heart flopping recently, some critics are wondering whether Americans have lost their appetites for movies about the war in Iraq.
What the commentators said
It’s not surprising that Lions for Lambs had such a weak opening, said Nikki Finke in her blog Deadline Hollywood Daily. It’s yet another movie about the war in Iraq, and according to exit polls, attendance for the film “was split straight down political lines already sharply drawn in this country”—it did “better in Blue states than Red States.” More importantly, it “got some of the worst reviews ever for a prestige project like this.”
It doesn’t matter if the film flops in the U.S., said Jonah Goldberg in the Houston Chronicle. “Hollywood cares less and less about what Americans think of their products because as domestic movie attendance has declined, Hollywood shifted its aim to foreign markets.” In America, filmmakers have to bend over backwards to prove that “their antiwar fare isn’t anti-American.” But in Europe, “denouncing the war isn’t only good marketing,” it’s also “the fastest route to critical acclaim.”
Maybe Redford’s movie just wasn't very good, said Dana Stevens in Slate.com. “Just when you thought that Rendition had nailed this year’s award for most dramatically inert post-9/11 melodrama, along comes Lions for Lambs.” The film’s 88 minutes feel “eternal,” every character “talks incessantly,” and the whole thing seems “thoroughly phony.” Watching this movie feels like “being trapped in an airless room, then escaping it to find yourself in another, and yet another.”