Trisha's Take: The Men Who Stare at Goats review

The Men Who Stare at GoatsThe Men Who Stare at Goats

Directed by Grant Heslov.Starring Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey.

If you are a skeptic in any way, shape or form, the I feel that I am honor-bound to tell you that you may hate The Men Who Stare at Goats.

But let me back up for a bit.

Based on the non-fiction novel by Welsh journalist and documentary filmmaker Jon Ronson, Goats tells the fictional story of a journalist named Bob Wilton (played by Ewan McGregor) who goes to Iraq in search of a story to prove to the coward within himself that he matters in the world.

But his journey really begins before he even thinks of going to Iraq when he is confronted by his own skepticism in the form of a “nutcase” named Guy Lacey (played admirably by Stephen Root) who claims that not only can he stop the beating heart of a hamster, but that he was once a part of a secret platoon of psychic warriors that operated within the U.S. army out of Fort Bragg.

What follows is a great non-linear tale full of characters and situations that you have to keep reminding yourself is based in reality, which is why being a skeptic may be detrimental towards getting any bit of enjoyment out of the film.

I give full-credit to screenwriter Peter Straughan for crafting a strong narrative against which the struggles of our everyman Wilson are compared and contrasted. I also give full-credit to director/producer Grant Heslov and rest of his team for assembling such a great team of actors who don’t just portray their roles, the actually inhabit them.

Cast against McGregor is George Clooney who plays Lyn Cassady, supposedly the greatest of the secret “Jedi Warriors” and the other character whose journey from hero to fallen hero and back again we see contrasted against Wilson’s. Cassady is a true believer, and due to how earnestly Clooney portrays him—and a little bit of practicality during the earliest scenes between Wilton and Cassady—by the time the story reaches the part seen in the trailer where he makes a goat keel over, you are completely drawn into him. Of the rest of the cast, special consideration goes to Kevin Spacey, who does a great job portraying nominal antagonist Larry Hooper as actually having emotions other than jealousy and spite. (Then again, this could be a bit of wishful thinking on my part because I enjoy seeing Spacey in morally ambiguous roles where he is neither the out-and-out villain nor the overwhelming good guy.)

If there was a part of the movie that felt flat to me, it was the scene where two teams of self-centered security contractors in Iraq shoot each other up in a case of mistaken identity and end up foisting the blame onto the locals. Even then, that scene was necessary towards getting the audience to believe in the original goal of the Jedi Warriors which was to engage the enemy in a more honorable and non-lethal form of armed combat.

And that’s what this movie is about: beliefs and convictions, the inner struggle to uphold them, what happens when negative emotions corrupt them, and how one holds onto them when almost everyone around you seems to have given up.

Wilton ruminates on this very matter in a piece of narration somewhere towards the middle of the film because by that point, he’s been almost kidnapped, shot at, lost in the desert, and weakened by dehydration as well as the firm belief that he is going to die without proving himself. He wonders why he chose to follow Cassady and even if it wasn’t explicitly stated in the voice-over, you can tell that Wilton is just hoping for something good and righteous to enter his life.

In the end, The Men Who Stare at Goats is a really funny little morality tale that one really must see—and stay through the credits for the disclaimer—to believe.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is rated R for language, some drug content and brief nudity. The film hits US and UK theaters on November 6.

Posted on November 5, 2009 at 07:12 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: Reviews

2 Responses

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  1. Written by damienwalder
    on 2009-11-11 at 23:16
    Permalink

    As much fun thinking about this film as it was to see it. Bridges made me fall completely for him, Clooney almost as much. McGregor has a few problems with not sounding like he's from anywhere (let alond Michigan), but he works well and I found the Jedi stuff wore surprisingly well, too. Spacey for once didn't try to chew the scenes with ACTING and just played small but effective. He did finally redeem the bad moustache (Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil) with a very jealous moustache (MWS@G).
    READ THE RONSON BOOK, it's (not better, but it's) even weirder!

  2. Written by damienwalder
    on 2009-11-12 at 04:16
    Permalink

    As much fun thinking about this film as it was to see it. Bridges made me fall completely for him, Clooney almost as much. McGregor has a few problems with not sounding like he's from anywhere (let alond Michigan), but he works well and I found the Jedi stuff wore surprisingly well, too. Spacey for once didn't try to chew the scenes with ACTING and just played small but effective. He did finally redeem the bad moustache (Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil) with a very jealous moustache (MWS@G).
    READ THE RONSON BOOK, it's (not better, but it's) even weirder!

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