"The Men Who Stare At Goats": DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

3/21/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

"The Men Who Stare at Goats"

Directed by Grant Heslove, written by Peter Straughan, 95 minutes, rated R.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"The Men Who Stare at Goats," directed by first-timer Grant Heslov and loosely based on the book by journalist Jon Ronson, starts out with the subtitle: "More of this is true than you would believe." It's the perfect beginning to a film that deftly combines truth and fiction, and one that concerns itself less with accuracy and more with retaining the ideals and core purpose of its subject matter. The New Earth Army, the top-secret military unit on which the film and book are based, was about changing the world through peace and the freedom of spirit.

As such, this is a very free-spirited film.

Ewan McGregor is reporter Tom Wilton, who finds himself emotionally lost after his wife leaves him and seeks meaning by heading to the Middle East to report on military contractors in Iraq. While waiting for permission to cross the border into the warzone, he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), who reveals himself to be a trained super soldier and former member of the New Earth Army. He tells Tom he has a secret mission across the border, so Tom decides to drop his original story and join Cassady. As the two make their way through the desert to Cassady's secret destination, he explains the history of the NEA, and through flashbacks we discover it was created by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges in total Lebowski mode) and was a successful venture until the recruitment of Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), who strove to use the training for sadistic means and threatened the project in the process.

The film is very lightly plotted, meandering around more than telling any one specific tale. This may be problem for those seeking a more edgy take on bizarre military projects and the post-9/11 world, but it actually suits the subject matter very well. The NEA was made up of free-spirits, and so, appropriately, the film is as well. It also manages to be the most optimistic film about the Iraq War yet released, passionately condemning the actions of a misdirected military and selfish security contractors but allowing for the possibility that with a little hope and push for peace, peace may actually come.

As message-based as it is, "Goats" really is a riot. McGregor and Clooney have great chemistry, and Clooney continues in the long line of perfect comedic roles he started in the beginning of the decade with "O Brother, Where Art Thou" (and he's since been brilliant in both of the other Coen brothers comedies he's been in). He's wild but not without an understated bit of heart to his performance. The flashbacks telling the history of the NEA are all fantastic, ranging from spectacularly absurd (Bridges giving an R. Lee Ermey-esque speech to his men and then following it up with a free-form dance session) to the wonderfully poignant (we see Clooney finally find escape in the NEA, the ony place where he's been accepted). Spacey gives one of his best performances in ages, relishing in his hilarious villainy. It's a minor role, but certainly a standout.

The NEA (or at least the NEA depicted by the film) believed in peace in a time when so many others didn't. The film shows us the absurdity of some of their actions but also saves room for admiration; admiration for something the world needs more of: not just desire for peace, but an attempt to create it.

Grade:  A

View the trailer for "The Men Who Stare at Goats" below.  What did you think of the movie?


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