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Review: The Men Who Stare At Goats


The title suggests exactly what it is, this is a film about men, who stare at goats. Grant Heslov's film is more than ample proof that life is truly stranger than fiction.

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a journalist quite happy with his lot in life. He doesn't report big stories in dangerous lands and doesn't foresee that happening for him, that is until he learns of his wife's affair. Then the decision to cover the frontlines of the Iraq War becomes a much more attractive option.

Once in Kuwait, Bob learns that this isn't like covering Vietnam. Things are pretty quiet around the camp. In search of a story Bob comes across Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney) a former special psych-ops solider in the New Earth Army. Bob offers to cover Lyn's story, but is cast off until Lyn decides that people need to know the story of the men who stare at goats.

Through flashbacks we are also presented the creation of the New Earth Army through the eyes of Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) a hippie that after being shot in Vietnam has an epiphany: the gentleness of soldiers is their true strength. By the irony of fate Django gets his program off the ground and implemented.

The Bridges portion of the film is most effective and most entertaining as we are introduced a hippie in the midst of a program that seeks to only train those to kill. The decision to establish psych-ops is perhaps the funniest moment of the film, "Sir, we cannot allow the Russians to create a gap in psych-ops research!" The New Earth Army's amusing adventures are pretty much standard slapstick, but never veers into any substantial material such as other political comedies like Dr. Strangelove.

George Clooney and Jeff Bridges do well with their roles, but Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey really provide nothing in the way of compelling story. It's a shame given the talent both McGregor and Spacey possess, but the material is never really there for them as it is for Clooney and Bridges.

As prestigious as the cast and real-life inspiration behind the film would suggest, The Men Who Stare At Goats is more in line with your typical run of the mill comedy. Then as a surprise, a more serious tone is established by Heslov toward the end of the film. An odd move that seems to undercut everything that happened previously and an ineffective move too. While you may snicker and laugh, once you leave the theatre this is a movie that you will probably never think about ever again.

**1/2 out of ****

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