Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Men Who Stare At Goats: Movie Review

The Men Who Stare At Goats: Movie Review

Rating: 8/10
Cast: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey
Director: Grant Heslov
Based on a book by Jon Ronson (and an apparently true investigation) comes the film adaptation of The Men Who Stare At Goats.
Ewan McGregor stars as small town reporter Bob Wilton, who one day looks into the story of Gus Lacey who claims to have psychic abilities. After dismissing the story, Bob's life falls apart as his wife leaves him for his boss and he ends up going to Iraq.
Quite by coincidence one night, he stumbles across Lyn Cassady (a deadpan turn by George Clooney) who Lacey claimed was a major part of the operation. With his journalistic nose well and truly piqued, Wilton follows the story having learned that Cassady was a "Jedi warrior" and part of a psychic unit started up by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges in Dude a la Lebowski mode).
So the two set out on a road trip which finds them in the Iraqi desert - and then Lyn reveals he's actually on one last mission.
The Men Who Stare At Goats is a deadpan shaggy dog style story - with terrific turns from Clooney as the Jedi Warrior and McGregor as the increasingly interested and slightly gullible Wilton.
(Incidentally, The Men Who Stare At Goats is titled so because soldiers in Iraq were apparently training to use their psychic powers to make goats' hearts stop - yes it's that kind of slightly offbeat quirky humour.)
While it veers from incredulity to outright "What did they just say?," The Men Who Stare At Goats manages to keep the right side of absurd. Sure, there's plenty of in joke moments to see McGregor told "The Force is strong with this one" and various Jedi references but there's also a lot of very unexpectedly farcically funny moments which catch you off guard and amuse.
Once again, Clooney demonstrates his O Brother Where Art Thou? skill of humour - he never once mugs to the camera or overeggs the jokes; it's a pitch perfect performance.
Jeff Bridges also shines as the man who started the New Earth Army psychics; Kevin Spacey amuses as the runt of the squadron whose jealousy pushes him to the limit and Ewan McGregor displays heart as the reporter who's just after something in his life when it all falls apart.

While The Men Who Stare At Goats' ending comes a little unravelled (and the final scene is a bit of a disappointment) the journey is a scarily funny one with some great one liners, hysterically odd situations and moments where you actually question a) whether these soldiers truly had psychic powers and b) whether what you've just witnessed was based on some grain of truth.

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