The Men Who Stare At Goats (M)

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The ViewWellington Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/11/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Hugely enjoyable, frequently hilarious comedy-drama with a superb script and terrific performances from Clooney, McGregor and Jeff Bridges.

What's it all about?
Based on Jon Ronson's non-fiction bestseller, The Men Who Stare At Goats stars Ewan McGregor as Bob Wilton, a Michigan journalist who's come to Kuwait in the hopes of proving himself to his estranged wife (Rebecca Mader) by finding a war story that will make his name. However, he gets more than he bargained for when he meets Special Forces operator Lynn Cassady (George Clooney), who tells him he's a member of a secret squad of psychic spies, trained in the 1980s by soldier-turned-Jedi-warrior Bob Django (Jeff Bridges).

As Bob accompanies Lynn on a mysterious mission in the hot zone, Lynn reveals more of his story, including the details of their powers (reading minds, psychic visions, killing goats by staring at them) and the eventual disbanding of the unit, through the actions of jealous colleague Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey). And when Lynn's secret mission is revealed, Bob finds himself with the story of a lifetime.

The Good
The film opens with the caption 'More of this is true than you would believe' and the film is careful not to show anything too supernatural, so that, like Bob, the audience is always on the side of the disbelieving observer. To that end, the script is extremely good, skilfully weaving together the two strands of the story in unexpected ways, with results that are both thought-provoking and surprisingly moving.

The casting is nigh-on perfect, even managing to provide a couple of clever jokes and references, such as the irony of Ewan McGregor playing a character learning about Jedi superpowers or the fact that Jeff Bridges plays Django as, essentially, an alternate version of The Big Lebowski's Dude. However, the star of the show is undoubtedly Clooney, who delivers one of his best performances as Lynn, effortlessly blending his gift for deadpan comedy with something that's both emotionally engaging and contains just a hint of madness.

The Great
Director Grant Heslov (Clooney's longtime producer) gets the tone exactly right and orchestrates several delightful scenes, particularly all the flashback sequences (Clooney dancing is a definite highlight) and the interaction between Lynn and Bob.

Worth seeing?
The Men Who Stare At Goats is a hugely entertaining, sharply written and superbly acted comedy-drama that's both laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly moving. Highly recommended.

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The Men Who Stare At Goats (M)
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Content updated: 07/12/2019 22:28

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