No one can fault Matthew Michael Carnahan for his political engagement: his screenplays for The Kingdom and this drama both address the moral cost of the war on terror. But the former resulted in a garbled action-adventure flick, and the latter, directed by Robert Redford, yields a passionate but mannered rhetorical exercise. Redford plays a university professor trying to talk some social commitment into a gifted but callow student; meanwhile, Meryl Streep is a Judith Miller-type reporter for a cable news network who's being sold a phony scoop by slick Republican senator Tom Cruise (who steals the movie). These two extended colloquies are awkwardly punched up by an action story line in which two of the professor's former students, now serving in Afghanistan, are stranded on a snowy mountaintop with Taliban fighters closing in. The movie is compelling now but unlikely to survive its moment.
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