This movie runs on three barely connected threads each ending with a question without providing a ready made answer. A Senator (Tom Cruise) is giving an exclusive interview to a journalist (Meryl Streep) about a new strategy to win the war on terror in Afghanistan. When he leaves his office she wonders around in his office and notices one of her own articles on the wall amongst the senator’s other framed memorabilia. This and their conversation makes her doubt the role of media, i.e. whether she should publish what he told her or would it be just government propaganda. Does she have an obligation to share news, or if it unconfirmable she would be just used as a mouthpiece for his agenda?
Meanwhile at a university a professor (Robert Redford, who also directed the film) is having a conversation with one of his naturally talented students, who didn’t attend most of his lectures. He gives him a choice of getting an easy B, or working hard, and accomplishing something for himself and living up to his full(er) potential. The professor is patriotic, but recognizes that people, despite their respectable heroics, who volunteer for the army do it for the wrong reasons in the wrong wars. After the student leaves the office he sees something on TV that gives him a pause and makes him think about his choices.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan a soldier falls out from a helicopter over a mountain ridge ad his friend jumps after him to save him. They survive the fall, but the enemy’s foot soldiers are closing on in them. The army is aware of the situation and sending back a rescue flight, but it takes 25 minutes for it to arrive. Meanwhile they talk, pull themselves together as much as possible and fight back as much as they can with their minimal ammunition. (SPOILER: They get shot down by the enemy, but first they stand up, so they would not be killed unhonorably in the horizontal position.)
But where are the connections. The two soldiers used to be the professor’s star students, who enlisted as a result of the professor’s challenge to do something for their country, not just talk. He tried to convince them not to do it, but he lost the arguments. The Senator’s conversation with the journalist keeps getting interrupted by phone calls as he is getting updated about the situation in Afghanistan, as the flight the soldiers dropped out from was part of his new strategy. And the student sees at the running ticker at the bottom of the TV the news about the soldiers’ death and he knows who they were.
I know that critics said the movie was boring and led nowhere. Nevertheless I liked it. I enjoy pondering unanswerable or at least tough questions. I also enjoy good acting, which there was plenty of here. So if you don’t expect answers or fast actions, but you are OK with lots of conversations, I think you would enjoy this movie too.
IMDB’s summary: Injuries sustained by two Army ranger behind enemy lines in Afghanistan set off a sequence of events involving a congressman, a journalist and a professor.