The Men Who Stare at Goats
dir Grant Heslov
scr Peter Straughan
prd George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Paul Lister
with George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, Stephen Root, Nick Offerman, Waleed Zuaiter, Glenn Morshower, Rebecca Mader, Terry Serpico
release US/UK 6.Nov.09
09/US BBC 1h30
The Men Who Stare at Goats
Far from Ishtar: Clooney and McGregor

spacey bridges lang

london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Men Who Stare at Goats Based on true events as recounted in the Jon Ronson book, this freewheeling war comedy is deeply entertaining due to the crazy-but-believable premise and wonderfully outrageous characters.

Bob (McGregor) is a Michigan journalist desperate to prove himself, so he heads to Kuwait, hoping to find a story in Iraq. He meets the enigmatic Lyn Cassady (Clooney), whose story is so surreal that he can't help but follow him into the hot zone. Lyn is a member of the New Earth Army, a secret platoon formed in the 1980s by a hippie (Bridges) to create soldiers with Jedi mind powers. But their work went wrong when a jealous teammate (Spacey) dragged them into the dark side.

The film opens with the caption: "More of this is truer than you would believe." And the script seamlessly weaves two plots together: as Bob and Lyn have potentially life-threatening adventures in the desert, we see Lyn's back story in flashbacks. Of course, both strands converge in the end with a climactic sequence that combines comedy and suspense in a surprisingly clever way.

Clooney is clearly having a ball with this character, effortlessly combining goofy shtick and enigmatic machismo (much more effectively than some of his other comedies). And his banter with the equally terrific McGregor snaps with real-life humour. And yes, the filmmakers are clearly aware of the irony of casting McGregor as a man learning what it means to be a Jedi warrior.

And the supporting cast gets juicy characters as well. Bridges is fabulous as the grounded zen-master, while Spacey gives his nasty little man an intriguing twist. The movie is packed with sequences that are memorable simply because they seem too bizarre to be true: from the titular goat experiments to the psychedelic psychic boot camp, complete with dancing, yoga and walking on hot coals.

This is a fast-paced, raucous buddy road comedy that keeps us laughing even when it's a bit terrifying. And of course there's plenty of subtext here as well, with the central idea of creating a military force whose goal is to create peace not war. This concept gets into our head as the story progresses. Maybe it's not so far out there after all.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 8.Oct.09

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Men Who Stare at Goats Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall