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George Clooney and Ewan McGregor in what I like to refer to as 'mega crazy mode,' this film is about the titular 'Men Who Stare at Goats' - a part of the US army training to develop themselves into psychic weapons. It's pretty much as random as it sounds.
Ewan McGregor is a bewildered journalist entering a war zone in the hope of a story to make his career. George Clooney offers him that story. Both play their parts extremely well and also clearly enjoyed making this film. They are the centrepiece to this film, and it's a credit to the acting skills of both that they keep it fresh and (mostly) believable (in a wacky kind of way,) and they clearly have a good rapport between them.
Jeff Bridges is also an excellent addition to the film, as the soldiers' wacky guru, in a role that reminds me, oddly, of Alec Baldwin in Rock of Ages (I really don't know why, and you'll probably disagree.)
This isn't going to be everyone's proverbial cup of tea, the humour is more than a little bit 'out there,' and there's plenty of swearing and drugs which is often deemed offensive. It's an excellent indie film though (with, I'm proud to say, funding from our very own BBC.)
It's also incredibly funny (in my opinion anyway.) It had to be really, with so much randomness stuffed in.
My copy of this DVD has a docu-feature extra which is pretty unbelievable in itself about the (allegedly) true events that sparked the book that sparked this film. It's pretty interesting stuff, so strange that you think maybe there's at least a grain of truth in it - fact is usually stranger than fiction after all.
An excellent quirky comedy, bursting with randomness and charismatic actors.
There are few films I see and not knowing anything about instantly want to see but the rather oddly titled the Men Who Stare At Goats was one of those films. Up until the moment I sat down to watch it last weekend I had no real idea about the storyline and was basing the fact I wanted to see it on the casting of George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. Thankfully the film came to the top of my list on lovefilm and was sent out to me a couple of weeks ago and despite the numerous chick flicks I've watched the hardest part was convincing Jen to watch it too.
Staring At A Goat
When his marriage breaks down and his wife leaves him for his editor journalist Bob Wilton heads for Iraq to try and loose himself and forget his troubles writing about the war. He thinks his luck is in when he meets Lyn Cassidy a former US Army Special Forces agent whose name Bob came across years earlier in an unrelated story. Lyn claims to be part of a crack team funded by the army in the research, development and implementation of paranormal powers into ordinary military activities. He follows Lyn into Iraq and soon things take some rather strange turns as he learns about the ways of these Jedi's and what they aim to do. For Bob this could be the story to make his career, the only trouble will be writing something believable.
Into The Paranormal
One of the first thoughts that came to mind whilst watching the movie was quite how strange the plot was. It is based on a novel by Jon Ronson and to say that it's a little bit on the strange side would probably be a compliment. For Jen it was far too involved and her feelings were that it was just strange but personally I found some of the dark comedy and the way that Grant Heslov translated the story to screen actually worked really well. The concept is a little off the wall but if you think about the film as you watch it and really pay close attention it's a lot cleverer than it may first appear.
The methods this army unit are alleged to carry out must have taken some imagination to put onto film and the effects used to implement them are really good. As a first major project for Heslov as a director it feels smooth and really works rather well. There are some very funny moments, such as Ewan McGregor, who played Obi Wan in the new Star Wars movie had to keep a straight face as Clooney's character explained to him all about the Jedi and the power they possessed. The film is very clever and even the scene's where the goat "dies" is done in quite a funny way.
When you look at the cast the director and producers managed to assemble it would be fair to say that a lot of big names liked the idea behind this project. The performance from Ewan McGregor as Bob is very typical of his solid and sometimes clinical approach to certain characters. I found Bob to be very likeable and although Ewan demonstrates a rather strange American accent throughout his performance was, as usual, of the highest standard. The same, without the dodgy, accent can be said of Spacey and even though his screen time isn't anywhere near as high as Clooney or McGregor he still has that real sense of awe around him.
The role of Lyn seems to be another in a long line of left field roles that you wouldn't expect to see Clooney in but he still makes his own. His performance as Lyn is excellent from the mad ramblings to the descriptions of his unit and how they operate. The character of Lyn is quite likeable and Clooney portrays a rather difficult character with relative ease. The final how stealing performance is from Jeff Bridges as the Units former captain Bill, a former career sergeant who got lost in the hippy movement and came back with all sorts of strange ideas. His performance, just like Clooney's probably shouldn't work but really does and sets the tone for the whole film.
I'm still not a 100% sure I would readily recommend The Men Who Stare At Goats, simply because it is a very thought provoking film. It needs a high level of concentration and at time that isn't what people are looking for. That said it is a very clever and at times funny film that perhaps shouldn't but does actually work. It's a hard one to real put into a genre with a few different aspects but perhaps a black war comedy would be the best way to describe it. For fans of Clooney in his stranger roles this is a must and overall it is very enjoyable, just be warned it's quite involved and at times a little strange.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Bob Wilton is a small town reporter who is trying to get a big story to impress his ex girlfriend. He gets sent to a small story to report on a man who believes he stared at his hamster and killed it. Bob discovers that the guy did stun his hamster and he was once part of a undercover Army corp. called the New Earth Army. Bob gets the names of a few of the other guys who were also part of the corp. so he has investigate the claims.
His investigations do not go to well and he decides to head over to Iraq to try and find some danger and a bigger story so he can impress his ex-girlfriend and try to win her back but as he is not able to get into the country he goes to stay in his hotel. When at the hotel he accidentally meets Lyn Skip Cassidy who he recognises as being part of the Earth Army he was told about. He strikes up a friendship with Lyn and manages to talk him into taking him into Iraq.
The pair set off to Iraq and bob starts to question him about the Earth Army and soon makes some startling discoveries. Just what will Bob discover and what is the real reason Lyn is in Iraq?
I has heard god things about this film and really wanted to watch it so I was very pleased when it came on the TV as it meant I did not have to fork out any money. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed by what we saw and thought that it lacked in comedy despite being classed as one. The storyline was good if not a little far fetched at times and the acting was also very good but for me there was just something missing to make this story seem genuine and more believable.
Ewan McGregor took the role of bob and he did a good job, he took very well to the part and was a nice likable man. He seemed a nervous man around danger and seemed very uncomfortable with some of the things he was being told. He did deliver all of his lines with ease and had a good on screen partnership with the role of Lyn. Lyn was played by George Clooney and he too did a good job with his role. There were a few times during the film when he seemed a little distant and strange but as the story developed we got to understand why this was. I did enjoy seeing the past scenes where George Clooney was made to look a little like a hippy as his appearance and mind frame was very funny.
We did have some very good support roles in the film and some of the actors included, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and Robert Patrick. We did have a good mix of characters in the film and it made for some diverse and fun viewing.
The film was mainly set a few years ago when the Iraq conflict was at its highest and the settings and scenery for these parts were all very good and fitting. The costumes did not need much work on as they were normal clothes and so to were the vehicles and props. The settings for the Iraq parts of the film were detailed and look authentic and worked and fitted into the film very well. Hubby has been to Iraq and he said they gave a good representation of the country and deserts we got to see. During the film we did get flashbacks to the time when the Earth Army was taking off and the recruits were being trained. We also had good costumes and props for these parts of the film and it meant we were easily able to work out what time zone we were in and not get confused.
The film is classed as a comedy and for me I felt it was lacking n a few big gags. We did have a lot of laughs but they were more subtle ones and I just loved the mentions and references to the Star Wars film which came out a lot in the film. Both me and hubby laughed out loud when Ewan McGregor was being talked to about Jedi code and becoming a Jedi master due to the other films he has been in! We had some noticeable visual gags but they did not happen very often and the majority of the humour came in the form of spoken one liners.
The film had a good soundtrack which was quite mixed. We had modern songs for the present day scenes and old tracks and hippy music for the flash blacks. It did all work very well despite being so mixed. The special effects were also very good and they fitted effortlessly into the film and looked very good.
This is a film only review so there are no bonus features to speak about. The running time of the film is 94 minutes and the rate is a 15. I do agree with this rate and do not think the film is suitable for younger viewers due to the amount of bad language. The film can be bought on DVD for £5 now in a variety of stores and I do think it is worth this price.
Both me and hubby did enjoy this film so I am giving it a good 4 stars and a recommendation. I have had to drop one star due to the fact that some of the storyline is a little far fetched and there was a lack of big gags. This is well worth a watch and the £5 price tag.
I rented this DVD recently as I'd seen the trailers when it was originally released and it did look quite funny.... little did I know that the trailers showed the only funny parts of the film!
The storyline is based on a journalist (the lovely Ewan McGregor) who is about to be dumped by his childhood sweetheart and now wife. He decides that he needs to go out into the big wide world to find the big story to prove himself to his wife. The big wide world meaning Iraq.
Before he goes, he interviews what some of us may call 'a nutter' who claims that he worked for the US Military in their physic department alongside some other 'talented' individuals...
Ewan doesn't quite get into Iraq before he crosses the path of one of these 'talented' individuals (coincidence eh?) in the form of George Clooney who then takes him into Iraq and the story then starts... George Clooney then talks him through his past in the US Military and you are subjected to some of the flashbacks to the bygone era...
The acting was good as you would expect from the calibre of actors involved, however the plot was very weak and there were several points where I was tempted to switch it off... if it wasn't for the fact that I was curious to see how it would all end I would have..
I'm really not sure what all the hype about if I'm honest.... it wasn't that funny and the plot (whilst a bit odd) didn't really capture me either...
I'm getting quite bored with the number of films being released centred around the ongoing wars around the world. 'The Men Who Stare At Goats' is yet another one based around the US occupation of Iraq.
* Plot *
Reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is frustrated at work and generally unhappy because his wife is about to jilt him for his editor. He wants to prove to himself (and his wife) that he's not worthless and that he's a real man. To try and accomplish this he flies out to Kuwait wanting to get into the war zone in Iraq to cover the war and get that elusive big story to give himself some prestige.
While waiting for an opportunity he meets Special Forces contractor Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney) whose name he recognises from an interview he had with a strange man a while back who spoke about an secret branch of the US military called the New Earth Army. They are a group of psychic super soldiers termed Jedi Warriors which specialise in psychological warfare and all have special abilities. They use strange techniques such as mind manipulation, becoming invisible and remote viewing against their opponents.
Cassidy is on his way to Iraq as part of a mission, and Wilton convinces him to take him along.
On their journey the pair continue to discuss how the unit was launched and what happened in the past. These parts of the story are told using flashbacks to when the unit was first established. It was run by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) who was shot while serving in Vietnam. He returned home and started a unit who focuses on peace, positive energy and the powers of the mind to gain strength in their missions.
Django's two best students Cassidy and Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) want differing things from the unit. Cassidy wants to use their strengths and powers for good such as locating lost soldiers and Hooper wants to harness them for aggression and much darker things. The pair battle to become the best in the unit and for their ways to prevail. Eventually it all comes to a head.
* Opinion *
This is not a serious war film, but fairly light hearted. There is a comical statement at the start which says that "more of this film is true than you believe". Leading you to think that the US army is actually using techniques such as these in their conflicts in war zones around the globe today.
There are occasional funny and quirky moments, but they are few and far between. In the main it's very slow, dry and unfunny. The funniest parts of the film involved the goats themselves!
George Clooney certainly suits his role as Lyn Cassidy and manages to produce an average performance. For me he is the only actor to come out of this film with any credit. Ewan McGregor did what he could with what was put in front of him, but ultimately his performance was like his attempt at an American accent; very unconvincing. Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges didn't have much opportunity to shine, and ultimately they didn't. The massive pool of acting talent on show here was never going to be enough to enlighten this film.
To be honest I don't see the point of it. I'm sure that there are people out there who actually admire this kind of deadpan satirical humour, but for me it was just dull, boring and pointless.
Film: The Men Who Stare At Goats
Director: Grant Heslov
Running Time: 94mins
Price: £6.93 (Amazon)
***FILM ONLY REVIEW***
Without knowing anything about The Men Who Stare At Goats, when it was released I thought there were three compelling reasons to see it: brilliant title, Ewan McGregor, George Clooney. Probably mainly Ewan McGregor. But the title is brilliant.
Anyway, I've finally got round to seeing it on DVD. The Men Who Stare At Goats is about a super secret section of the US Army, known as the New Earth Army, who use psychic powers against their enemies. The story is told by Bob Wilton (McGregor), a small town journalist looking for the big story - so he heads off to Iraq. While in Kuwait, waiting to get into Iraq, he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney), a member of the New EarthArmy, who takes Bob into Iraq on a mission. And then things go a bit wrong.
The story is based on a book by Jon Ronson, which is an investigation into attempts by the US military to use psychic powers. It's a bit mad, but brilliant. Really, it's so daft it's brilliant. The men in the New Earth Army can find people miles and miles away, and kill goats with their mind. The film is full of humour and ridicule, but there are no real belly-laughs - the humour is much more subtle than that. And sometimes you aren't even sure if it is funny. The most obvious funny section is the big finale, which is fantastically silly.
What makes this mad story work is the actors. George Clooney as Lyn Cassady is just perfect. Lyn believes that he can do anything with his mind. At first you think he's a straightforward nutcase, but the conviction that Clooney brings to the character starts to win you round to believing. But then you shake your head and think "nah we're meant to laugh at the idiot" - then you start believing again. Eventually you see flashback evidence which is designed to act as proof ofLyn's abilities. Clooney is straightfaced through everything, as of course is right for a character who sees nothing ridiculous in what he is telling Bob.
As for Bob...ah, the lovely Ewan. I can't believe this, but I'm going to have to criticise him. He was playing an American, and his American accent just wasn't quite there (I'm sorry Ewan!). The weird thing is he can do better - he can do a convincing American accent, so I don't know why this one didn't work all the time. Sometimes I could hear traces of his native Scots accent. Aside from the accent, he was great - Bob was baffled most of the time by what Lyn claimed he could do, and his confusion was clear. The rest of the time he was crapping himself about Iraqis and bombs and guns, and the mixture of confusion and fear portrayed by McGregor was spot on.
McGregor and Clooney are the main characters, but the rest of the cast is brilliant too, particularly Jeff Bridges as Bill Django, the founder of the New Earth Army. I also loved Stephen Lang as Brigadier General Hopgood, a real traditional looking army type who is introduced to us when he tries to run through a solid wall. There was something about his straitlaced-ness which was just hilarious.
The soundtrack is worth a mention as well - there's a fantastic selection of tracks in the film, including Boston, Supergrass, and whole load of other rock bands. Almost every track to play was a treat.
The Men Who Stare At Goats was weird. It was a bit confusing. It was bonkers. But that's why it was so good. It was a farcical story, which may be true, played out by actors playing their characters as serious, and therefore funny. And Ewan's accent may have been off - but he's still Ewan.
The Men Who Stare at Goats is the 2009 comedy film from director Grant Heslov and writer Peter Straughan. Based on the book of the same name by author Jon Ronson, it is an account of the investigation conducted by Ronson and John Sargeant into the US Military's use of psychic powers. The trailers for this film looked hilarious and made me really want to watch it - just like a good trailer should, the cast looked great, the story immensely funny and interesting, so the decision was made to watch it a few nights ago and now I've had time to think about it, did I like it?...Was it any good?..
The film follows a young Newspaper reporter, Bob Wilton, (Ewan Mcgregor) whose life and career seem to be heading nowhere but the direction he doesn't want to be going until one day he interviews a man, Gus Lacey, (Stephen Root) who claims to have psychic abilities. Bob is naturally sceptical and brushes the "hamster controlling" former soldier off as a little crazy - as anyone probably would. A little while late whilst attempting to report on the war in Iraq Bob accidentally falls into the company of a Special Forces operative, Lyn Cassady (George Clooney). Lyn reveals to Bob that he was part of an elite team of spies trained in parapsychology, utilising their unique skills for the benefit of the US Military, they were like Jedi warriors. Skill sets included all manner of things from invisibility to cloud bursting and walking through walls, this back story is told predominantly through flash back scenes with Lyn' voice over narrating - this gives the film an overall quite nostalgic and memories of an era long gone appeal. In a way it's as if Lyn himself is revisiting that magical time when he was young and honing his skills under the tutelage of Bill Django (Jeff Bridges).
The script is well written and actually very funny in parts, it flows very and flits between the events actually taking place and the flash backs quite nicely without becoming confusing and disjointed. The idea for this film is brilliant and the tag line "much of what you see in this film is based on actual events" leaves the audience wondering just how much countries like the US are prepared to do and spend on or with their defence programs, let alone the logic applied - we've all seen the YouTube videos of US soldier LSD experiments, well I have and I've read a few transcripts, suffice to say conducting such experiments is not without it's laughs... And that really is the crux of this film; it is a poke at that rationale that dictates extensive research in bizarre fields.
Unsurprisingly then, the film had mixed reviews from the critics and a fair amount of controversy surrounded the production. It is my contention though that the cast are incredibly well balanced highly talented and firmly convincing in their respective performances here, with more than one big name taking the lime light. Kevin Spacey's brief appearances are brilliant as are Jeff Bridges in a classically Dudesque way. Ewan Mcgregor always surprises me with his ability to look just like a young boy, eager and excitable but quietly concerned, then we get Clooney who has quite clearly still got everything needed to the dark comedy role required of this script - he is cool and as quirky as the Cohen brothers but with a warm and quite commanding presence.
I am leaning more and more to watching this film again in order that I pick up on stuff I didn't see the first time round and for that reason I have to say this was a good movie. It is certainly a layered film and very funny but I don't think it will split the sides of every viewer so I should caution you on your approach here. I loved it many ways but kept feeling as though I wanted something extra, just that little bit more... but I definitely cannot dissuade people from watching this, it is surprisingly good and so is the sound track.
Men who stare at goats is a strange film starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. The film is very loosely based on the book by Jon Ronson and is narrated by Ewan McGregor's character Bob Wilton.
Bob is a reporter who once interviewed a strange man called Gus Lacey who tells him about an odd army programme designed to use New Age thinking as a tool. He also tells Bob about the programmes best agent called Lyn Cassidy (Gorgeous George). Bob loses his job and his girlfriend leaves him so he flies over to Kuwait to find something of interest, having a meal one night he meets Lyn Cassidy and the pair decide to enter Iraq on a mission. This soon becomes a type of travel film with the back story of Lyn and the programme coming through as the pair travel into Iraq.
So what is the story, well it's a comedy, the comedy of the American army running a programme using New Age thinking and trying to make it into a weapon. The humour comes from George Clooney playing Lyn's role with an absolute straight face, there are no little ticks or nods when he drops a comedy and the straightness of the lines deployment make the jokes funnier and wittier.
The film is rather thin in certain parts, the storyline of Bob and Lyn's journey into Iraq is unexplained and their arrival at an American army site is random at best. Here the back story and current story come together, along the way we are informed about the programmes instigator Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), he survived being shot in Vietnam and as a result investigates the alternate West coast culture, after 6 years he decides to return and set up an army programme.
Bill recruits Lyn and Lyn soon turns into the programmes star using remote viewing as a tool to help locate lost soldiers, however, Bill also recruits Larry (Spacey) who believes that use of special powers could be an aggressive weapon. Lyn and Larry soon hate each other and are viewed as the alternate sides of the alternate weaponry debate.
Then we come to the goat, the goat becomes the divide between the two sides of the story. Lyn is asked to kill the goat by starring at it for a long period and persuading it to stop breathing. Lyn succeeds and in disgust leaves the programme. So now he has all these powers (hmmm) and nothing to do with them.
This film is funny at times, silly at times and as the tagline at the start of the film say's "more is true than you believe", Clooney is brilliant in his role and his skills as a comic are underplayed. Ewan McGregor is the narrator of the tale and his American accent is a bit dubious, but he's ok. Jeff Bridges plays the true leader of the project and delivers his lines with a mouth half open, he is clearly enjoying the role, and it reminded me of his dad in those silly hot shots films in the eighties.
Kevin Spacey as the uptight Larry gives a delightful sinister parody of the seventies alternate culture, along with the clipped moustache and swept over dark hair gives a feeling of an alternate warrior Hitler.
The goat - gives a wonderfully expressive role as the split between the two views on alternate thinking, his chewing really brings the role together.
Seriously I enjoyed the film; it has witty moments and pokes fun both at alternate earth West coast thinking and the American army. They shouldn't go together and a lot of the humour is along those lines.
George Clooney by the way is brilliant, it's hard not to like him as he's clearly ridiculously good looking, but is clearly a brilliant actor and by all accounts is a really nice man. I'm hoping to find a fault with him; maybe I'll do some remote viewing!
The Men Who Stare At Goats 2009.
Headlined as a comedy film and starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. The film was released in 2009 with the main studio being BBC Films but also including Smokehouse, Westgate Film Services and Winchester Capital Partners.
Directed by Grant Heslov who also directed True Lies, Enemy of the State and Good Night, and Good Luck, among others.
The film is inspired by British journalist Jon Ronson's book about the American military's use of psychic powers in warfare.
A reporter, Bob Wilton (played by McGregor) bored with his work and sent on various uninspiring assignments whilst his wife, working in the same office, jokes with the editor, meets and interviews Gus Lacey a man who claims to have psychic abilities. Lacey tells of other people with abilities to give his own story more credence including a man called Lyn Cassady. He claims Cassady was able to kill a goat by stopping it's heart after staring at it and inducing the heart attack by psychic means. Wilton dismisses Lacey as a nut.
Bob's wife leaves him and in order to prove to anyone who cares and maybe even himself, he sets off on a reckless assignment flying to Kuwait to report on the Gulf War. There he meets the real Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a slightly cagey, quirky character who Wilton finds strangely believable and who is now a special forces operator and who takes Wilton behind enemy lines.
Whilst on the trip into Iraqi held territory Cassady tells of his time in the army special unit working on special abilities. There he worked under U.S. Army colonel Bill Django. Django had a strange encounter during the Vietnam war and later persuaded the army that he should investigate hippy ways to see if they could be incorporated into army teaching. He meets Cassady who shows some psychic ability and also Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) and they join the new unit the New Earth Army.
The story then goes onto to show the history of the rivalry between Hooper and Cassady in the New Earth Army and the adventure of Cassady and Wilton in Iraq.
As the subject matter is somewhat strange and given some of the cast I was expecting a humorous tale in the style of the Coen brothers (films like O Brother Where Art Thou, Burn After Reading, Fargo, No Country For Old Men) unfortunately what you get is a poor imitation I'm afraid and given the stellar cast Clooney, Bridges and Spacey (all Oscar winners) and Ewan McGregor, I was expecting more. There are some funny scenes. The acting is good but the film does try to reach heights that the script won't allow. Clooney is at his quirky best, but McGregor has an American accent that in narration is strong but almost disappears when he is on screen(perhaps he was in awe of the other actors). Spacey and Bridges are in the film just long enough to make their characters interesting but the story falls a bit flat and the writer doesn't do enough with the original material.
The film review site Rotten Tomatoes summarises the film as 'a mostly entertaining, farcical glimpse of men at war, some may find its satire and dark humor less than edgy' and for me that's about right.
6/10 Probably best to wait for it's premiere on the BBC, unless you love George Clooney.
The best way to sum up this film is it's much like "Burn after reading". Which, if you haven't seen - is a tad on the odd side. To be honest, I wasn't really sure how I felt about this film. I mean it had George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and some goats in it, so you'd think it would be good but really in the end it was just a bit disappointing. I think perhaps it was due to a vein of rather eccentric black comedy which ran throughout the whole film. Having said that, there were certainly some amusing parts, I did chortle every so often, but in the end, once it was all over with, I was left with a sense of "meh".
Apparently based (loosely) on reality, "The men who stare at goats" is a tale of an American special forces team called "the new earth army." Who use hippy tactics, remote viewing and the "starry eyed technique" to wage a new kind of warfare. Ewan Mcgregors character stumbles on this story when during his work as a journalist he interviews one of the original members of the unit. Then the story continues from there. A rather daft story about destiny, "Jedi's" and staring at goats..
It could have been so much more amusing really.
This film is based on an interesting book by the onetime Loaded Journalist Jon Ronson. It is a really interesting concept and stars George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.
This film is decent in parts and has a fantastic premise, some wonderful actors and some great, really hilarious set pieces, but it never really captures the strange reality of Ronson's book, it tries to hard for moments of slapstick when the reality of what is being attempted is funny enough to make any watcher laugh at the concept and conclusion.
The idea of both the book and the film is that the American government have a top secret department commited to new age techniques to outwit their enemies and rivals.
This can include using mind control, psychics and the experiment in the title of staring at goats and using mind control to kill them. Obviously a lot of these things aren't going to work for a number of reasons and this in itself is very funny. However the undertone of the film is that the experiments which start out as mind control and subliminal pushing turn more sinister as commanders want the mind control used for destruction.
For this fictional account Bob Wilton (McGregor) is a reporter who encounters Lyn Cassidy (Clooney) in Iraq and discovers he was a New Earth Army spy who was expected to use his mental powers to defeat the enemy, they go off in search of Cassidy's old boss Bill Django (Bridges) but run into Cassidy's hated nemesis, the twisted Larry Hooper (Spacey) who runs a government funded centre using mind control for torture rather than subliminal thinking.
The film is nowhere near as good as the book, as the book is hilarious due to its connection with real life it puts the characters in real life and some of their ideas and theories are obviously crazy, in this film the link between these people and reality is less clear and therefore in fiction anything could happen which loses something for me. The story is fine but again it has lost something in translation a more kamikaze production following an actor playing the gonzo Ronson as he researched his book would have been funnier.
The film has some very good set pieces and does build up well after a slow start, the actors are uniformly very good with Bridges, Spacey and Clooney standing out.
It has its moments, it looks good and the acting is very good, but it lacks something, perhaps having read the book, I just have that feeling that they missed some tricks with this film, but nonetheless its an original idea to bring to the big screen.
Bridges in particular has great fun with his part as the slightly off kilter Django. The goats are pretty good too!!
George Clooney ... Lyn Cassady
Ewan McGregor ... Bob Wilton
Jeff Bridges ... Bill Django
Kevin Spacey ... Larry Hooper
Stephen Lang ... Brigadier General Dean Hopgood
Robert Patrick ... Todd Nixon
Waleed Zuaiter ... Mahmud Daash
Stephen Root ... Gus Lacey
Glenn Morshower ... Major Holtz
Nick Offerman ... Scotty Mercer
Tim Griffin ... Tim Kootz
Rebecca Mader ... Debora Wilton
Jacob Browne ... Lieutenant Boone
Todd La Tourrette ... Dave
Brad Grunberg ... Ron
The DVD comes in a one disc set and includes the following extras:
* Featurette: Project Hollywood: A Classified Report from the Set (8 minutes)
* Featurette: Goats Declassified: The Real Men of the First Earth Battalion (12 minutes)
*Featurette: Character Bios (5 minutes)
*Deleted Scenes (4 minutes)
*Trailer (2 minutes)
The DVD is available on Play.com or Amazon for £10.99 but this does seem a bit steep for a film which is 3 out of 5 at best, unless you adore Clooney, McGregor, Bridges or Spacey, rent it out.
I watched The Men who stare at Goats when it was released and thought it was pretty funny if not a little weird. It also stars George Clooney who is always good value.
Bob Wilton played by Ewan McGregor works for a newspaper but his wife dumps him in favour of the editor of the paper. In order to attempt to prove to her that he's worth taking back and also to prove something to himself, he volunteers to head to Iraq to report on the war and in the process find himself and become a man.
The problem is that this isn't what he thought it would be and he waits for an opportunity to enter Iraq. He runs into a man named Lyn Cassady played by George Clooney and this meeting changes his life forever. Before coming to Iraq, Bob had interviewed a man who claimed to have phsychic abilities. He said that he was taught these abilities by the U.S Army. He mentioned Lyn, the man he has just met and described him as the best man there is with these abilities.
Together, now believing this meeting was not chance but destiny, Bob and Lyn both head to Iraq the next day. They both have very different agendas that at first then don't tell the other about. Bob is in search of a story for the newspaper and Lyn is there so complete a secret mission which in the end he lets Bob in on. On their journey together Lyn proceeds to tell Bob about an elite group of soldiers put together including himself to use mind control to destroy the enemy without actually killing unless they have to.
The title of the movie is a bit strange but does grab your attention or did for me anyway. The title's meaning is revealed in that Lyn was once asked to stare at a goat using these psychic abilities and mind control to kill it.
The actors do a great job for me in this movie and make things interesting throughout with their performances. McGregor and Clooney play off each other's character well.
I was really entertained from start to finish in this movie and it had the right mix of black comedy moments and more serious moments too thrown in.
The Facts: Certificate - 15, Running Time - 89 Minutes, Genre - Comedy
The Plot: The US Government, caught in a cold war web of suspicion and one-up man ship, create a division who are tasked with investigating and developing battlefield techniques associated with psychic powers. Led by Jeff Bridges, the recruits are all psychically gifted soldiers with abilities to see beyond the human world!
Years after they are set up, troubled reporter Ewan McGregor stumbles onto their field camp with the assistance of outcast George Clooney. What unfolds is a fantastically funny adventure through the world of military pomposity and daftness!
My Review: I really enjoyed this film, and with turns from George Clooney, Ewan McgGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges it's hard not to!The plot is both original and enjoyable, and fans of sci-fi such as the X-Files will no doubt find plenty of semi-believable nuggets in the plotlines which help the story to remain nicely based in a world of farce whilst avoiding really heavyweight subject matter.
Clooney is the star of the film, and as one of the central characters, his deadpan delivery and good comic timing keeps the atmosphere light and the laughs coming!
Stars - Clooney, Spacey, Bridges and McGregor
Rated - 15
Suited to - internet conspiracy types
Imdb.com - 6.5 out of 10 (22, 643 votes)
In the early 1960s in a bid to resolve the Cuban missile crisis John F Kennedy asked the C.I.A. to come up with some ideas, however outside of the box the thinking was. One group came up with 'Operation Northwood's', a deviant and complex plan to organize atrocities against American citizens by sinking a US ship in the blockade, flying a plane into a Miami Skyscraper and using snipers to pick off people in Miami, then blame it on Fidal and so invade Cuba. It never happened, of course, and was shelved...maybe for another day. Imagine coming up with that idea to find a reason to attack another country? An even less sensible exploding cigar was decided on instead, although the next time they try that one, as Michael Moore famously quipped, they need to use the right kind of exploding cigar!
The Men that Stare at Goats, based loosely on British investigative author John Ronsen's intriguing book (which I have read) about a unique and extremely secretive element of the US military called the 'New Earth Battalion', that only recently was shut down, centers its narrative around the CIA's exploration of New Age concepts and the potential military applications of the paranormal in actual combat situations through psychological warfare to gain the slightest advantage over the enemy. The title of the film refers to one of their few successes, the ability to stare at goats and kill them stone dead (so they say), and the idea being to refine the technique to kill fully grown men in the war zone. The goats that were smuggled into Fort Bragg in North Carolina for the experiments were actually used to test new munitions impacts on as their bone structure is quite near ours. But it was worth a try!
The films narrative explores the connections between the ideas and experimental techniques of the hippy battalion that have survived and been advanced to be used in the War on Terror today. The infamous noise torture with strobe lights was one of those ideas, certainly used on Iraqi and Islamic militants, coming to light in 2004 through a report in the NY Times that the US interrogators were playing the theme tune to kids show 'Barney & Friends' at very high volumes in blacked out rooms to get the Muslims to confess to things they probably had little to do with but said yes just to get the hell out of there, the Bagram Airbase and the Camp X-Rays and the like packed full of militants and terror suspects going through this insanity to create an enemy to prolong the 'War on Terror'.
Most of the ideas were quite ludicrous, like trying to learn the ability to run through walls by mentally rearranging ones molecular structure by thought process so 'in tune' with the said wall - but rearranging the fireplace ornaments instead with an almighty clatter. More believable is the use of drugs to make soldiers fight harder and longer, US friendly fire statistics proof enough they are out of their heads in those helicopters, jets and tanks in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
Although it's hard to decipher what's real and what's made up for the movie, Ronsen does claims everything in the screenplay is what he researched from ex members of the unit. But he never wrote the book as a film and so that screenplay task was a tough one for Peter Straughan and to be honest there was never really a film in the book and that proved the case here, the distraction of George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and Ewan McGregor enough to cover that open manhole and get it made but no more. This is not an action thriller or an exciting drama in any way but just a mechanism to get this intriguing and whacky gen out there so punters can relate it to the 'War on Terror'. People need to know about the 'Gay Bomb' guys!
George Clooney ... Lyn Cassady
Ewan McGregor ... Bob Wilton
Jeff Bridges ... Bill Django
Kevin Spacey ... Larry Hooper
Stephen Lang ... Brigadier General Dean Hopgood
Robert Patrick ... Todd Nixon
Waleed Zuaiter ... Mahmud Daash
Stephen Root ... Gus Lacey
Glenn Morshower ... Major Holtz
Nick Offerman ... Scotty Mercer
Tim Griffin ... Tim Kootz
Rebecca Mader ... Debora Wilton
Jacob Browne ... Lieutenant Boone
The war is raging in Iraq, American Journalist Bob Wilton (McGregor) on to a good scoop that will give a new angle to proceedings, learning that the Pentagon had created a unit called the 'New Earth Battalion' back in the 1960s to get on top of the communist threat through 'psychic warfare' during Vietnam, a bunch of apparent crackpot CIA guys given a big budget and a free hand to come up with anything, and I mean anything, that would give the US any sort of advantage on the battlefield, the project code name 'Jedi' (ho ho), headed by lieutenant Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) Their motto was 'Reach for the impossible and you may find something amazing'. Shame that was not the case for the film.
Bobs first contact is Gus Lacey (Stephen Root), who leads to another and then another until he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney), one of the original guys there at the start of the battalion in the 60s. Cassady is a little crazy and begins to draw Wilton into his world by reciting the extraordinary tales of what the 'Pshyops' teams got up to, appropriately through flashbacks, only to keen to demonstrate stuff on Wilton that actually got commissioned, 'The Predator' to name but one, not the unmanned drone but a multi-functional Knuckleduster. Cassady also reveals the various levels of being a super soldier, level 3 being 'Invisibility!'
Things begin to get really hairy when Wilton decides to fly to Iraq with Cassady, operation Coca Cola underway in Baghdad, Iraq the new ground zero for or the likes of Halliburton and Bechtel to begin the commercial terraforming of a Muslim country . Although the adventure for Wilton is to get to the guts of the story, for Cassady it appears to be a military black op mission of sorts, the pair soon getting into all manner of scrapes, Cassady deploying his various learned 'special skills' to help them evade Al-Qieda. But it soon becomes clear psyops haven't been shut down in the 90s and are up and running big time in Iraq, the perfect test ground for the CIA's latest inventions...
Huge cast, good budget but no actually film of note here. Ronsen's TV documentary of the book is far more interesting guys. The tagline for this is 'more of this is true then you would believe', which is the main problem. You could bung anything in here and say its true, which they clearly have but in no particular order, making for a right old mishmash of a film. I was hoping director Grant Heslov could do what Paul Greengrass did with the search for WMD with 'Greenzone' but, alas, not the case. I'm not saying this is boring but it just doesn't mean anything, other than George Clooney gets another chance to mug to camera for two hours with a character I don't even think he believes in. But he loves these left wing projects and with the muddled Syriana and the enjoyable 'Three Kings' under his belt he couldn't resist the hat trick here. If you haven't seen Three Kings you really should, a real gem about the first Iraq War, the Men that Stare at Goats a mix of that one and everything from Catch 22 and Guy X, that oddity from Jason 'American Pie' Biggs..
There is some more interesting stuff in the extras and on the commentary, the gay bomb fully explained. Apparently the idea was to spray the enemy with pheromones so they would be attracted to each other and make out in the trenches. That one didn't get off the ground, or indeed on it, so they say. Or, at least, we don't think it did. There were rumors Bin Laden had 'interesting' sex habits (opps, now my review will come up on the CIA data trawl). What we do know is war is suited to psychotics, the social miscreants that destroy so many lives at home ideal for combat abroad. It was discovered that 85% of conscripts in the war aimed high when engaging with the enemy so not to kill a fellow man, and half of the 15% that didn't having what psychologists call 'sociopathic tendencies', which meant 7 in every 100 young men in Vietnam were potential serial killers back home. As we saw with the recent video of the US Apache helicopter pilots and gunmen shooting up the journalist in Baghdad, many young men go to war to experience or partake in a kill, however innocent that person may be.
= = = Special Features = = =
#1- Grant Wesley and director Grant Heslov talk about the film of the book
#2- John Ronsen talks about the book of the film
-Goats Declassified: The Real Earth Battalion.
These guys were real and here we see some of them talking about their involvement in this bizarre world.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
In the past I have enjoyed George Clooney outings in quirky comedies, Oh Brother where art thou is a big favourite of mine however this particular comedy falls rather flat and goes to prove that however good the cast is, alongside Clooney you have Ewan McGregor, Kebin Spacey and Jeff Bridges, if the script and plot are full of holes then there is not a lot the talent can do about saving the film.
Clooney plays Lyn Cassidy a former member of a secret army unit called New Earth Army who specialised in psychic warfare techniques and he comes into contact whilst in Kuwait with a journalist called Bob Wilton who is played by McGregor who is looking for a big news story to revive his career. The whole plot is rather disjointed as the pair travel into Iraq and having seen a number of trailers for this film I soon realised while watching it that I had already seen all of the funny bits which includes the scene from which the film draws its title.
The comedy is far too slow moving and none of the actors really look comfortable in their roles, this is most noticeable in the acting of McGregor who is not convincing at all and seems uncertain as to how he should play the role of the troubled journalist whose wife ran off and left him. All of the comedy is front loaded atthe start of the movie and it is far too limited, by the end I was getting bored and cared little about the final ending which was a non event for me.
Maybe in the hands of the Coen Brothers this film could of worked, certainly it should have made better use of the cast at its disposal instead what you are left with is a slow moving indifferent comedy that fails to deliver. Not one I would recommend and it scrapes two stars on the basis of a couple of good laughs at the start.