A film with one of the most unusual titles ever conceived, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” looks back at a somewhat questionable period in military history. Played pretty much for laughs, this movie tells a fictionalized account of a psychic “Super-Soldier” project financed by the U.S. Government.
A reporter meets one of “The Men Who Stare at Goats”
Ewan McGregor plays Bob Wilton, a reporter for an Ann Arbor newspaper who interviews Gus Lacey (Stephen Root), an Army veteran who makes some strange claims about his training. According to Lacey, he was part of a government initiative to use psychics as warriors. One of their powers, Lacey says, was to kill animals just by staring at them.
A few months later, while Wilton is going through a painful divorce, he heads to Iraq to cover the ongoing conflict. While trying to get into the war zone, he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a strange fellow who talks about “Project Jedi,” which tried to create a squadron of “Warrior Monks”. Led by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), these soldiers were taught to use the powers of the mind to battle enemy troops.
At times, Cassady comes off as a real kook, but some things he can do defy explanation. Wilton accompanies Cassady deep into the Iraqi desert, where the former “Warrior Monk” says he’s on a secret mission. With little choice but to follow, Wilton finds himself getting deeper and deeper into Cassady’s strange world.
“The Men Who Stare at Goats” contains a few kernels of truth
Based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” is a bit of a disappointment. Within every outrageous story are at least a few kernels of truth, but director Grant Heslov decides to make fun of the subject matter. If Heslov had truly tried to separate fact from fiction, “Goats” would have been a much better film.
George Clooney turns in a passable performance as psychic warrior Lyn Cassady, but he never is able to get a good handle on the character. According to the story, Cassady is supposed to be the greatest soldier from “Project Jedi,” but he and his mentor have become less-than-impressive in recent years.
Kevin Spacey has a few good moments, however, as Larry Hooper, a psychic soldier who doesn’t really have the best of intentions. Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the latest “Star Wars” films, also has a few good scenes, but director Heslov makes one too many Jedi jokes at McGregor’s expense.
If Grant Heslov had consulted some psychics during production, he would have realized that making “The Men Who Stare at Goats” into a comedy was a huge mistake. Any truths that could have been uncovered about the psychic soldiers are lost in a sea of lame jokes.
“The Men Who Stare at Goats,” rated R for language, some drug content and brief nudity, opens in theaters on Friday, November 6.