Saturday, 6 March 2010
FILM REVIEW: THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS
Truth is often stranger than fiction but the events detailed in this intriguingly absurd film, the directorial debut of Grant Heslov, beggar belief. Early in the post Vietnam era during the Cold War, US intelligence were supposedly investigating the possibility of producing psychic warriors. The aim? To be the first super power to possess actual super powers.
This is the far fetched tale journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) stumbles upon whilst in Iraq in the early days of the US invasion. There to prove to his recent ex-wife that he has balls, Bob meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney in goof mode), one of the members of the clandestine psychic unit known as the New Earth Army.
The New Earth Army was the brainchild of Sgt Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), who in his post Vietnam disillusionment, experimented with every New Age theory available to develop the means for enhancing soldiers' psychic powers, and preparing them to engage in ethical combat. Cassady was one of Django's star pupils before another ambitious but spiteful soldier, Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), joined the ranks and brought all of Django's work undone.
All of this is revealed in flashback as Bob and Cassady travel the deserts of Iraq, going from one disaster to another before stumbling upon a secret army base where the research of the New Earth Army seems to have been re-employed for the 21st century.
How much of the film, based on journalist Jon Ronson's book of the same name, is true or not I can not say but it certainly puts a new spin on the already oxymoronic term 'military intelligence'. Heslov, who co-wrote Clooney's Oscar-nominated Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), has fun with the material as do the actors. Clooney, Bridges and Spacey give good silly, while McGregor, essentially the straight man, pales in comparison.
Ultimately, it may not amount to much more than an absurdly tantalising anecdote of dubious merit but at 93 minutes, it finishes before the joke wears too thin.