Sunday, April 25, 2010

Movie Log: The Men Who Stare at Goats

It's impressive when one of the major movie stars of our time is willing to be a complete goofball now and then. And George Clooney delivers another one of his marvelously unhinged portrayals of a complete nutbar in The Men Who Stare at Goats. Jeff Bridges is even spacier as Clooney's commanding officer, adding to the fun -- both of them are playing

Men Who Stare at Goats is based on a true story, more or less -- it's based on Jon Ronson's nonfictional book of the same, name, but Ronson's been ironically both de-Briticized to an American reporter, and played by Scotsman Ewan MacGregor. The Ronson character is here called Bob Wilton, and he finds himself just outside Iraq during the run-up to the second Gulf War, desperately trying to get a great story, prove himself, and win back his philandering wife. What he finds instead is Lyn Cassady (Clooney), who claims to be part of a secret U.S. Army psychic-operations squad called the New Earth Army, trained and deployed during the Reagan years.

Much of Men Who Stare takes place in flashback, as Cassady explains their training under General Bill Django (Bridges) to the credulous Wilton. The present-day scenes, though, see Wilton and Cassady captured by random Iraqis and suffering other indignities -- Cassady does break up clouds by looking at them, and hurts Wilton with a small plastic thing called the "Predator," but otherwise his supposed "Jedi" skills don't come into play much.

And that's the joke, of course -- Men Who Stare is primarily saying "look at these insane military types, and what they believed," though it also wants to have it both ways: the military men are silly and misguided, but, dramatically, this Jedi stuff has to work now and then. So it's a lumpy, odd movie, full of over-the-top performances and scenes that don't necessarily go anywhere. It's enjoyable on its own level, but the neo-hippie vibe of the New Earth Army may lead the viewer to wondering if it would be funnier, and make more sense, if said viewer had indulged in certain substances before viewing....
Listening to: Basia Bulat - The Pilgriming Vine
via FoxyTunes

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