The Red Right Hand

If you don't stand for something, you might fall for anything

Robert Redford

Robert Redford
Meryl Streep
Tom Cruise

For a considerable amount of time (about 2004 onwards), I noted that the Gulf War-cum-War on Terror has been very similar to the conflict in Vietnam. When I said 'noted' I was of course referring to similarities between films produced regarding these issues. The plot can easily be broken down into three portions and feels like two long conversations and a poor action/survival sequence. The first is a meeting between a lazy but gifted student, Todd [Andrew Garfield] and lecturer, Stephen Malley [Redford] who sees such wasted potential. The second is a meeting between Senator Irving [Cruise] who is tipped to be the next President and a timid, mousy reporter, Janine Roth [Streep] whom he admires. The third seems to be an attempt to break audience fatigue, following two soldiers [Michael Pena & Derek Luke] as they attempt to survive a military botch.

Essentially, the entire film feels like an overblown college play that illustrates everything we already know without offering any solutions or suggestions. One of the only things distracting the audience from this obvious, glaring fact is the extremely strong cast. The rapport between the student and the lecturer is just plain annoying; some veteran-turned-teacher talks to some young man who couldn't care less about what he has to say. The only realistic outcome I could derive was that the petulant brat would do what most kids do to their teachers, disappoint them. Closely linked to the first strand, we discover that the two soldiers sent out on an ill-researched skirmish used to study under Malley. Unfortunately, these two characters only serve to outline the 'horrific waste of war'; as if we didn't already know. On the other hand, Meryl Streep's scenes are the most engaging and saved the whole movie; Cruise wears the corporate-bastard suit well and may have found a new post run-a-thon acting niche and Meryl Streep does a complete 180 from the confident overlord in The Devil Wears Prada to the timid yet passionate reporter.

Ultimately, few issues are actually addressed and the plot gives little more than a summation of the last six years. Critical questions of why (such as WMD's, purpose, cause, 9/11 follow-up) are batted away with "mistakes have been made" while querying the future seems to be removed almost completely. Sure, the script sizzles in places and the largely tepid dialogue is littered with zippy one-liners but at the end of it all, I sat in the cinema, feeling a lot like Streep's character who had just endured an over-long propaganda-washed rant from someone who has no clue what's going on and no real idea of how to fix it.

Release Date:
9th November 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
I know this may be a bit cheap and possibly considered a spoiler but the final televised newsreel focuses on the marriage of a fictional singer (clearly based on Britney Spears but could easily be relatable to any of these other fops) while Streep's Senator-backed breaking story rolls slowly on the ticker-tape below frame. If you haven't already put it together, it's the fact that pressing issues will always be ignored by a largely apathetic nation, preoccupied with material trivialities. Either that or the awful end credits which show silhouettes of crowds, families, classrooms and all of a sudden, a handful dissolve to disappear; terrible! It felt like a bloody tacky AIDS awareness commercial.

Notable Characters:
The highlight of this film is Meryl Streep who appeared to be one of the only actors actually acting (**mmm... tongue twisting alliteration**) and her character is one of the only ones I sympathised with in any way. By the end of the film she realises that the media outlet she works for are only interested in ratings and quietly went from being a force dedicated to spreading truth and news to a company interested in corporate sponsorships and ratings. As a budding writer, I find it most distressing that the only places I can express my honest opinions are in fiction and, naturally, this website; everyone else demands a certain level of 'co-operation'.

Highlighted Quote:
"You already sold the war. Now I'm asking you to help me sell the solution"

In A Few Words:
"Disappointing considering those involved. Didactic? Hardly"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon