Lions for Lambs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie featured a good but unexceptional transfer.
Sharpness usually seemed solid. A few shots suffered from mild softness, but the majority of the elements came across as accurate and well-defined. I noticed no signs of jagged edges, moiré effects or edge enhancement, and only a couple of small specks marred the presentation.
The film’s palette depended on its setting. Most of the flick went with a fairly natural set of tones, though the college scenes adapted a light golden tint. The military sequences offered a cold semi-green palette. The DVD replicated these colors well, as they looked appropriate for the material. Blacks seemed deep and firm, but shadows could be a little dense. The military shots appeared a bit darker than I’d expect so it became somewhat tough to make out details. This was a perfectly acceptable “B” image.
In terms of audio, Lions provided both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Most of the time I think the flicks with both DD and DTS mixes sound pretty much identical; I tend to only notice volume differences, as the DTS tracks are usually notably louder. That trend continued here. Once I adjusted for that factor, I thought the two mixes were very similar.
Virtually all of the interesting audio elements came from the scenes in Afghanistan. The military scenes provided a mix of involving elements. We got helicopters all around the room as well as gunfire and explosions. These sequences worked quite nicely, as they brought out a broad and well-developed sense of place and action.
The other parts of Lions lacked anywhere near the same ambition, which was logical since those were chatty segments firmly based in offices. Dialogue dominated the Cruise/Streep and Redford/Garfield scenes, so don’t expect much from the other channels. Music did provided nice stereo spread, at least.
Throughout the film, audio quality was quite good. Speech consistently sounded natural and concise, with no edginess or other problems. Music swelled well and demonstrated solid range and definition. Effects also came across in a positive way. Those sections gave us the only really challenging elements, as they boasted clear, accurate material with clean highs and deep lows. Since only a third of the flick used the spectrum in an engaging manner, I couldn’t give the tracks anything above a “B+”, but the audio did work well for this film.
As we hit the DVD’s extras, we begin with an audio commentary from director Robert Redford. He offers a running, screen-specific chat that looks at cast and characters, performances and working with the actors, themes and story, camerawork, and changes to the script.
Redford’s commentary doesn’t tell us a ton about the film’s creation. Instead, he leans heavily in the direction of themes and interpretation. That’d be fine if Lions offered a richer experience. However, since it telegraphed its points in a simplistic manner, Redford’s take on matters seems unnecessary and redundant. He also lays on his political viewpoint a little too heavily, and dead air becomes a problem during the flick’s second half. Redford provides a moderately entertaining track but not one that does much to illuminate his work.
Three featurettes follow. The Making of Lions for Lambs goes for 20 minutes, 50 seconds as it shows movie clips, shots from the set and interviews. We hear from Redford, producer Tracy Falco, producer/screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan, director of photography Philippe Rousselot, production designer Jan Roelfs, editor Joe Hutshing, composer Mark Isham, and actors Tom Cruise, Peter Berg, Meryl Streep, Derek Luke, Michael Pena, and Andrew Garfield. The piece looks at the script, and stories, characters and themes, cast and crew, locations and production design, editing and music, and closing thoughts about the film.
If you hope to learn more here than you did during the commentary, you’ll leave “Making” disappointed. The program exists mainly to tout the greatness of the flick as well as all involved. Due to the film’s subject matter, it takes on a fairly subdued tone, but the effect remains the same, as hype and praise dominate. You might get a few minor useful tidbits, but there’s not much here to make the show worthwhile.
Next comes the eight-minute and 24-second Script to Screen. It features Redford, Cruise, Streep, and Carnahan. They discuss the screenplay, the stories and the characters. We find a smattering of decent notes about what Carnahan tried to do with his work and how he structured it, but once again, the featurette feels thin. It just doesn’t do much more than tell us that Lions is an Important Film.
Finally, UA Legacy goes for six minutes, 56 seconds as it the history of United Artists. That doesn’t mean details about the studio, though. Instead, it’s a simple collage of scenes from prominent UA flicks over the decades. It’s kind of cool to see all the UA classics, but it still adds up to nothing more than a promotional reel.
An ad for Valkyrie opens the disc. The set also includes both teaser and theatrical promos for Lions as well as trailers for Pathology, Death at a Funeral, Feast of Love, The Darjeeling Limited and the FX Network.
With a much-lauded roster of actors present, many expected great things from Lions for Lambs. Unfortunately, the end result was a thin, ham-fisted piece of propaganda that can entertain but never remotely lives up to its potential. The DVD presents good picture and audio but extras disappoint, mainly because the Robert Redford commentary proves boring much of the time. Though this is a decent DVD, the movie itself never proves very interesting.