The Men Who Stare At Goats (Director: Grant Heslov): If the strange title doesn’t grab your attention then how about the stellar cast – George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Robert Patrick and J. K. Simmons. Stranger still is that this quirky comedy is based on a true story about psychic soldiers in the US Army.
The film is based on Jon Ronson’s book, The Men Who Stare At Goats. It examines the origins of the First Earth Battalion which still exists today. This group of psychic soldiers claim to use paranormal powers to fight the enemy.
Bob Wilton (McGregor) is a journalist in Ann Arbor who is looking for excitement. When his wife leaves him for his one-armed editor, he decides to visit Iraq and cover the war. He meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney) and finds out that Cassady is part of the First Earth Battalion. Wilton is skeptical when he learns that members of the battalion can run through walls and kill goats by staring at them intently. Before he can confirm that Cassady is a complete crackpot, Wilton becomes entangled in Cassady’s secret mission to find the former leader of the brigade, Bill Django (Bridges).
The irony runs deep when we find out that these psychic soldiers are often referred to as Jedi warriors (Ewan McGregor played a Jedi Knight in the Star Wars films). I laughed out loud when I learned that Django was a Vietnam vet turned hippie. Jeffrey Lebowski is back! If you’re a fan of The Dude then you owe it to yourself to see this film. Clooney turns in his best comedic performance since O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
For a comedy, this film was beautifully photographed. There were several scenes where the framing really caught my eye. The attention to costume and detail was also quite good. You’ll notice that every guy in this film sports a short mustache at some point.
Kevin Spacey was the real surprise for me. When did he become so fat and creepy? He’s perfectly cast in his role as an egotistical weasel.
I found the film to be genuinely funny. The absurd situations and witty dialogue will make The Men Who Stare At Goats stand out as one of the better comedies in recent years. Although the ending is a little weak in terms of story, the strong performances by McGregor and Clooney balance things out.