The Men Who Stare at Goats is one of those light, quirky, darkly amusing comedies very loosely based on real events. It features an all-star cast including George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. It’s enjoyable, fascinating, and in no way meant to be taken seriously. It’s not memorable, and is unlikely to win any awards, but it’ll give you a laugh and a good time for 94 minutes.
The film is told through the eyes of Ewan McGregor’s Bob Wilton, a journalist who ends up stumbling across the story of a lifetime – the US army’s attempts to develop psychic spies with super powers. Yes, the US military actually tried to do this (and who knows, may still be trying to do this)!
You could be forgiven for thinking that The Men Who Stare at Goats is a Coen brothers movie in the vein of The Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading. It has that quirky feel from start to finish; you wonder what the heck is happening and what might happen next. Every character Bob Wilton comes across is fascinating and hilarious, especially Lyn Cassady, perfectly played by the “so serious it’s funny” George Clooney.
But actually, The Men Who Stare at Goats is written by Peter Straughan (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People), loosely based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson. It’s directed by Grant Helsov, who hasn’t done much directing and is more of an actor. Hopefully Helsov will have more opportunities to direct after this film.
Anyway, there’s nothing particularly outstanding about the film. It’s constantly amusing, but the big laughs are less frequent. That said, it is clever, and somehow manages to stand on the fence when it comes to psychics. The movie doesn’t endorse them as genuine, but it doesn’t exactly ridicule them as frauds either. It does, however, suggest they may all be crazy! My favourite thing about the whole film is that it makes constant references to Star Wars, especially because it stars young Obi-Wan Kenobi himself!
3.5 stars out of 5!
[PS: and yes, goats are stared at in this movie]