The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: November 6th, 2009 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Grant Heslov Actors: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Rebecca Mader, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick

 


 

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here are lots of introductions and plenty of set up, but viewers are left in the dark through most of the conflict. By the time the resolution finally arrives, audiences will still be unsure of the significance of the journey. An impressive cast handles their roles admirably, but the assortment of “Jedi”-powered oddball characters leaves few to root for and even fewer to believe in. Many of the misadventures on screen provide darkly comical situations, while the optimum trajectories, cloud bursting, and sun saluting equates primarily to utter nonsense.

Having just been dumped by his wife, broken-hearted journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) needs to believe in something. So when he encounters Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a man claiming to be a former psychic spy for the U.S. army, the reporter tags along on a deranged quest through the Iraq desert to find out the truth behind the government’s top secret “New Earth Army.” The powerful Jedi soldiers have purportedly existed under the radar, specialize in mental warfare, and are involved in the Russians’ paranormal research with men who can kill a goat just by staring at it.

The film opens with the line “More of this is true than you would believe,” which provides yet another incarnation of the popular idea of persuading audiences to assume that everything portrayed is real. This particular story is so puzzlingly nonsensical and dementedly humorous that most of it is probably factual. The majority of the humor stems from the main characters completely believing in their super powers, offering up only Ewan McGregor as a source of sanity – and even that is only temporary.

Jedi soldiers, warrior monks, remote viewers, and psychic spies are all terms for the arrant lunacy at work in the army, led by the zaniest crew of crackpots. The delightful part is seeing such a diverse and well known cast getting to act like morons. Perhaps “The Men Who Stare at Goats” was merely an excuse for such ridiculous behavior (“What is the practical application, sir?” inquires a recruit when a superior demonstrates lifting weights attached to his scrotum). The New Earth Army believes they’re resolving conflicts worldwide, but in reality, they’re in search of a mission. Like McGregor, it’s not the purpose, meaningfulness, or reasoning behind the project that matters – merely the search for something to accomplish, a method of coping with failure, the identification of destiny, and pursuing something to believe in. The conclusion provides just enough laughs and resolve for general contentment, but a more gratifying rationale for the existence of the whole ordeal seems to escape the picture.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10