Robert Redford and Tom Cruise get serious in their new film Lions for Lambs, Hollywood's latest take on US foreign policy and the military fallout from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The film brings together what at first seem three separate story lines, playing out simultaneously, to look at the sacrifice of US soldiers, the relationship between politics and the media, and the need for young Americans to take a stand.
The first strand has an up-and-coming Republican senator, played by Cruise, trying to sell an "exclusive" over Washington's new strategy in the war in Afghanistan to a television journalist, interpreted by Meryl Streep.
Meanwhile in California, Redford is a university professor confronting a gifted but lazy student to shake him out of political apathy.
Thousands of miles away, in Afghanistan, two US soldiers who used to be Redford's students are part of a small advance group sent out into the mountains to fight the Taliban.
Presenting his film in Rome on Tuesday, Redford, who returned to the director's seat after a seven-year break, was candid about his views but said Lions for Lambs did not attempt to give answers and only raised questions.
With the only real action happening on the Afghan battlefield, the film's biggest challenge is its lengthy dialogues.
Early reviews praised Cruise and Streep as the politician mixing personal ambition with a real belief in America's role as a force for good, and the veteran journalist who feels she is being spoon-fed military propaganda.
Cruise, who showed up more than an hour early on the red carpet later Tuesday to sign autographs, is also an executive producer of the film after taking over Universal Artists.
Redford famously played alongside Dustin Hoffman as one of the two journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal.
(Shenzhen Daily/Agencies October 26, 2007)