On DVD: The Men Who Stare At Goats


“The Men Who Stare At Goats” is like a cleverly written essay only the writer never actually wrote a thesis. When it leaves you wondering “what just happened?” it’s not because you don’t understand it, but because you don’t know what the point is. Included in the definition of art is purpose, and even if your purpose is to be purposeless, that is still a purpose. “Goats” is an unmemorable quirky war comedy that’s strengths stop at great concept.

The performances from a great cast in this story of “psychic soldiers” manage to keep this aimless film interesting. The film’s final impression is one of bewilderment, but along the way you’re convinced it’s about something. It follows Bob, a reporter (McGregor) who goes to Iraq with something to prove and meets Lyn Casady (Clooney), who he once heard about from a source who told him a story about an army sect of soldiers training to use their minds as “weapons” and to psychically spy on enemies. Convinced there’s some reality to this after all, Bob follows Lyn on a mission. Eventually they’re kidnapped and other craziness — the film also mixes in Bob’s narration of the history of this group of soldiers.

The movement, called the New Earth Army, was started by Mr. hippie himself, Jeff Bridges as Bill Django. The men called themselves “Jedi warriors,” which as a Star Wars fan, makes the scene where McGregor asks about Jedi possibly the funniest in the film.

Peter Straughan’s screenplay, adapted by the Jon Ronson book, is where it starts going wrong. The jumping back to explain the New Earth Army mixed in with the modern plot starts to work at first, but when there’s nothing all the exciting to reveal about the NWA, it stops increasing our interest in what’s going on in the present.

Director Grant Heslov is not the source of the problem technically speaking, but any lack of purpose in a film means the director is going to take some shots.

“Goats” is simply not what it’s made out to be. The trailer does not take into account the chronological structure of the film and so it looks like a story being told about the NWA, not a reporter learning about it to no important end.

2.5/5 Stars

The Men Who Stare At Goats
Directed by: Grant Heslov
Written by: Peter Straughan, Jon Ronson (book)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey


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