The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
Director - Grant Heslov
So it turns out that the actual men who stare at goats is a secret US military group created to harness the power of positive thinking, mind control, and attempting to run through walls. I’m not sure what I thought it was going to be, but I guess that’s as close as whatever I could have come up with…and then there’s the invisibility factor, but we won’t go into that too much.
The driving force of this film is George Clooney, portraying Lyn Cassady, an aging former member of the disbanded secret group who is on some sort of secret mission in the Middle East. Journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is along for the ride as he searches for a great story while his wife back home is sleeping with his editor. These two actors give great charisma and have great chemistry, and the result is a lot of laughs early on that keep you very much engrossed in this story. When we meet the founder of the group Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) it just seems to get better. Played simply as a parody of his role as “the Dude” in The Big Lebowski, Bridges brings life to a character who you simply cannot be sure is based on a real person, but apparently, according to the opening credits, he is. With the introduction of group member Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) we have our core players and we are ready to get into the meat of the movie.
Unfortunately, that is where the best 30 minutes of the movie ends and the remaining 60 minutes begins. How a film can start off on such a high note and carry such momentum into the middle stages and then seemingly just fail on so many levels is almost beyond me, but I guess it is easy to sum up how it happened here: A movie that is a supposed to be a comedy and that should be looking for quick laughs starts out as such, and then, inexplicably, attempts to be a serious movie with serious themes and serious scenes. How the director and writers came up with this method is beyond this reviewer, and I can only assume someone felt the early tone could not carry itself throughout.
Regardless, it was a major flaw and it hurts the flow of the film so badly that I wondered it could recover.
It could not, sadly, recover the early brilliance and I left the theatre disappointed.
There are some very bright moments in the film, mostly all dealing with Clooney and Bridges portraying some really well written characters, but the fable cannot sustain itself. The story of these men in the desert and the back-story of a group of people using their minds in unconventional ways to develop new warfare techniques is intriguing, and perhaps some of you will enjoy the entire film, but I’m recommending you save your money for more anticipated films of the November and December.