Movie: The Men Who Stare at Goats

November 12, 2009

by Kevin Sims

With a “stranger than fiction”-esque tag-line and an all-star cast, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” fails to win over even the most hardened conspiracy theorist with its based-on-true-events moniker, but offers a feel-good, if not high brow, comedy for audience members looking for an entertaining storyline.

In his directorial debut, Grant Heslov channeled the legendary film duo, the Cohen Brothers, in more ways than just similar cast members when telling the story of a disheartened journalist Bob Wilton, played by Ewan McGregor, misadventures in war-plagued Iraq in 2003 while following a prodigy of the ultra-secretive and outlandish New Age Army unit named Lyn Cassady, played by George Clooney.

Following a story to win back his ex-wife, Wilton joins with Cassady, who is on a mission of unknown origins, at the Kuwait border.

During their adventure in Iraq, the duo finds themselves kidnapped and thrown into a terrorist plot and incompetent dealings with only Cassady’s strange ability and training to protect them.

The group ultimately lands in a ultra-secretive training facility filled with familiar faces of their past.

On first viewing, the main storyline becomes a bit hard to follow with flashback sequences to the beginnings of New Age Army and a semi-biography of its hippie leader Bill Django, played by Jeff Bridges.

Like traditional Cohen brothers’ movies, Heslov made a cinematic marvel, which will become more entertaining after each viewing and should bring in a cult following upon its DVDs release.

The movie is unbelievable in its portrayal in the U.S. Army’s research into the psychic phenomenon while building super soliders.

The U.S. government would never allow the longhaired dude like Django to be in the army, much less build an entire company of similar minded pacifist with psychic abilities like ESP and the ability to stop a goat’s heart by stairing at it.

The major conflict in the movie is found in a jealous newcomer to the New Age Army, Larry Hooper, played by Kevin Spacey, who sabotages the unit’s efforts in hopes of surpassing Cassady’s abilities.

Although most of the humor is straightforward and easy to understand, the best jokes are made in an ironic fashion like Clooney’s interaction McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, when calling the New Age Army a group of Jedi warriors.

The movie trailers gives off a stoner comedy vibe, but in actuality, very few illegal narcotics are shown during the movie opting instead to assumed psychedelic use.

For those looking for a bio-graphical portrayal of the U.S. government’s attempts into psychic warfare, the movie will disappoint those looking for a slapstick comedy.

But the film does blend great story telling with interesting characters and a creative plot to make it a thoroughly entertaining movie.