Director: Grant Heslov
Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Stephen
Lang, Robert Patrick, Waleed Zuaiter, Stephen Root, Glenn Morshower,
RunTime: 1 hr 34 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Encore
Official Website: http://www.themenwhostareatgoatsmovie.com/
Opening Day: 1 April 2010
this quirky comedy inspired by a real- life story you will
hardly believe is actually true, reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan
McGregor) is in search of his next big story when he encounters
Lyn Cassady (Oscar® winner George Clooney), a shadowy
figure who claims to be part of an experimental U.S. military
unit. Cassady claims he was an elite member of the so-called
“New Earth Army,” with unparalleled psychic powers
and can read the enemy’s thoughts, pass through solid
walls, and even kill a goat simply by staring at it.
Now, the program’s founder, Bill Django (Oscar®
nominee Jeff Bridges), has gone missing and Cassady’s
mission is to find him. Intrigued by his new acquaintance’s
far-fetched stories, Bob decides to accompany him on the search.
When the pair tracks Django to a clandestine training camp
run by renegade psychic Larry Hooper (two-time Oscar®
winner Kevin Spacey), the reporter is trapped in the middle
of a grudge match between the forces of Django’s “New
Earth Army” and Hooper’s personal militia of super
soldiers. In order to survive this wild adventure, Bob will
have to outwit an enemy he never thought possible!
George Clooney returns to yet another one of his Middle Eastern romps through the mire of politics and war but finds a himself stuck firmly in Cartoon-ville, Iraq. “The Men Who Stare at Goats” is the actor Grant Heslov's first directorial feature and third film with a Clooney connection (with whom Heslov co-wrote the Oscar-nominated “Good Night, and Good Luck.” as well as sharing a screen with in “Leatherheads”) and it finds its basis in Cardiff-born gonzo journalist Jon Ronson 2004's non-fiction book of the same name investigating the link between the U.S. Army and paranormal research in the War on Terror – a section of the military based on engineering soldiers with a grasp on psychic warfare. It's an exciting premise that has its roots and mythos of parapsychology since Hitler and Stalin and, as the material attests, during the Cold War. Heslov sees the same stimulating value in the proposition of the occult and turns in an uneven – if slightly amusing – absurdist slant on the oh-so-serious issue of military intelligence.
There's a sense that the film just barely missed the mark on more than one element. It turns out never to be much of the wartime satire it purports to be and only just registers a pulse in the action department. Anchored by the always dashing – even in the Selleck-esque mustache and complementary “Magnum, P.I.” get-up – Clooney as the decommissioned super-spy and now military contractor, Lyn Cassady, the film follows the Ronson-like reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) through his journey to make something of himself in Iraq. Heslov, in turns, peppers the present scenes with flashback of Cassady's rise through the ranks as the best of the Army's “warrior-monks” led by Col. Bill Django (Jeff Bridges, unabashedly reprising his performance of The Dude), the uber-hippified unit commander of the New Earth Army who developed and introduced techniques to unleash his soldiers' inner Jedi (cue the meta-joke of McGregor's casting of the reporter needing to believe in this concept). The flashbacks also serve to introduce Cassady's nemesis, the dangerously droll and dangerously devious Larry Hooper played by a much-missed Kevin Spacey.
Heslov has assembled a cast strong enough to keep the movie going, and he keeps a tight enough ship that no one performer runs off with the show. In its most clearest form, you can imagine each of these actors playing the roles they have been so good at in their careers. Hardly ever coalescing into anything more than a hipster take on the annexation of New Age babble by an increasingly desperate military, the film instead, turns on its charm offensive with its quartet of exceedingly capable actors chewing scenery and nimbly exchanging repartee that never feels quite enough given the amount of raw, literate talent in front of the camera.
For all it's promise of subverting the themes of modern warfare, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” just falls short of satisfying in most aspects. While it's no “Catch-22” and Joseph Heller's imprint is distinctly nowhere to be seen in this film's inconsistent tone and shriveling wit, the film's ambition is always clear. Even if its scattershot humourisms of zesty one-liners and crackpot mannerisms lets us stare at the screen appreciatively, it never really lets us react to it with anything more than a warm smile.
(Uneven in tone and lighter on story than it should be, but the strength of the performances keep it watchable)
Review by Justin Deimen