Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The Men Who Stare At Goats

Starring: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges

Running time: 94 minutes

Year: 2009

Directed By: Grant Heslov

Written By: Peter Straughan

This is a review where I don't really know where to start. For those of you that have seen this film will understand why as it is a very strange experience. The film centres round the idea that the U.S Army set up a separate unit that trained soldiers to fight with their minds rather than weapons, in order to make an attempt at peace. This is apparently based on a true story and I have to say it is so unbelievable it may well be true.We begin with Ewan McGregor who plays a journalist who has just split up with his wife. In a way to make himself look like he is over the break he heads to Kuwait in an attempt to report on a big story in neighbouring Iraq. Once there he meets a man whose name came up in an interview he took part in a few months earlier. The interview was with a guy who was part of a new unit within the army that trained to kill things with their minds. This man mentions one guy as the only one to ever do it; this guy is George Clooney, who McGregor meets when in Kuwait.

Clooney agrees to the journalist tagging along with him into Iraq and McGregor heads on to a journey he will never quite be able to explain. Their journey is due to Clooney believing he is on a top secret mission and he begins to tell McGregor about it which ends up in many flashbacks showing how this army unit came about. We see Jeff Bridges become a hippy and force army officers to dance. We also get Kevin Spacey attempting to guess an object inside a hidden box. The whole process of this seems ridiculous and it really pokes fun at the army. The two continue their journey across the Iraq desert, coming across many ludicrous hurdles that only a man who can kill a goat with the power of his mind can jump over. The film generally is told in flashbacks, which shows the rise and fall of two key characters as this new found unit is developed.

The plot sounds crazy and by sure the film is. Much of it is very funny and it mainly comes from people believing they can jump through walls or that simply thinking someone won't shoot you is enough to stop them from doing it - added on after this speech is the line, 'and then you stab them in the neck with a nearby pen,' which completely defeats the purpose of stopping the violence. This however works for this film as this is where the dry humour comes from, the fact that these "Jedi Warriors" as Clooney calls them, believe that they are in fact doing it all with their mind. This is an absolute tribute to the writing as the dialogue is brilliant and the dry humour delivered in ironic one liners really hits the spot.

A problem with the writing though is that there isn't really much of a story to get yourself attached to. The first part of the film is interesting and the middle section involving the mind techniques is funny but the final third becomes a little dull and by this point I didn't really care. The film worked better when it was told in flashbacks which unfortunately meant there was no real story. The initial idea is intriguing but I think, other than the dialogue, the writing really falls flat.

The actors are on top form though. Clooney is brilliant as the best man in his business, and his scene where he stares at a goat is great. Bridges is also at ease and brings humour and a life to his role. Spacey is also on good form despite his short screen time. He is rather menacing here and all because he can't master the mind technique. McGregor drives the story from the beginning and his bewilderment as the story unravels relates to the audiences reaction.

The film is a little disappointing and it is only really the acting and dialogue that can gain positive reports. Some of the lines for Clooney had me in stitches and the entire bizarreness will have you baffled, however it doesn't help the film really being a disappointment. Some of it is enjoyable and I wish that it would have been better.

2 / 5

Next film to review: 12 ROUNDS

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