I don't claim to be some bigshot writer or that I know everything there is to know about writing a good movie, but I'd like to think that I have at least "Day One" under my belt. Lions for Lambs will suck; this I know. For a second there, I was really looking forward to this movie. "Finally!" I declared aloud, to no one in particular, "an intelligent-looking film about the war on terror with an outstanding cast and an accomplished director! Surely, this is the answer to my prayers." Not that I'm necessarily pro- or anti-war, but I find the lack of movies that tackle this subject matter oddly disturbing (save one, and I'll get to that in a moment).
Some movies are made with the intention of drawing their audience towards a conclusion they reach themselves. You may have to read that sentence again to understand it, but yes, it makes sense. When you want to take a neutral observer and sway his or her opinion in any direction, you do not come out and say what it is you want to say, especially in any kind of art. In literature, you will never be greeted to a sentence that says "Call me Ismael (by the way, I am the good guy)." A writer's job, of any medium, is to present a scenario and then wait for the audience to draw their own conclusion, never to spell it out completely.
There are, of course, mediums that do this anyway, with absolutely no success whatsoever. I'm thinking specifically of documentaries such as those by Micheal Moore and Al Gore. There were only two types of people that walked into that theater, those that agreed with the filmmakers and those that disagreed. That's it. I don't believe that anyone's mind was changed by watching any of these movies, and if it was, then it probably means they were radically under-informed from the beginning.
There have been movies in the past that will present information and opinions, but under the clever guise of fiction. Think about the movie 300, which is to the best of my knowledge, the only successful movie based on the war on terror to date. At the end of 300, I felt pumped. I was ready to kick ass. I kept kicking people and yelling, "This is Sparta!" But moreover, it made me think just a little bit. The movie was a little too obvious in its pro-war stance, but that still doesn't mean that it can't inspire thought. Anyone who came out of that theater not feeling at least a little changed in their attitude toward the war (in either direction) could easily be considered close-minded.
Now, there have been other "war on terror movies" such as...oh god, what where the names of those pieces of crap? I don't know. World Trade Center? Uh, Flight 93? Muslims Are Scary? I know that myself and my circle of friends initially shrugged these movies off because there were just too obvious, and anyone who went to see these films had already formulated an opinion on the events surrounding them. The same will apply to Lions for Lambs. If I made a movie called Kevin Warzala is Awesome, the only people wanting to attend will be those who already agree I'm awesome (one) or people who are ardently opposed to believing I'm awesome (many).
Anyway, my point is this: If you want to make a movie about a war, make it about something besides the war. People will get the point. I promise. And what's better still, it's worked in the past. While on the surface, Invasion of the Body Snatchers might appear to a movie about aliens taking over our country from the inside, it actually reflected the paranoid fear that people had over communism at the time. It works in other mediums too. Picasso called it "Guernica", not "Spanish Civil War is teh gayzors, lolz". Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises appears to be a book about a bunch of losers obsessing over some chick, but really is almost entirely about the first World War. Don't believe me? Wiki some of the names of the cafes they eat at and check it out.
So in a roundabout way, I have to pose a very important question: How the fuck can Hollywood writers justify going on strike when they apparently don't know shit about writing. You dumb assholes deserve to get paid $5 for every idiotic movie that we pay $9 to see, and you deserve every penny. The world is better now that you're not working.