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Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Directed by: Grant Heslov

Premise: Based on the true story of a United States military program that attempted to make super soldiers with telekinetic powers. The film tells the story of a journalist (Ewan McGregor) who embeds himself with a former member of the program (George Clooney) on a mission in Iraq. 

What Works: The Men Who Stare at Goats is a successful mix of comedy and drama. The structure of the story is impressive as the film cuts back and forth between the history of the top-secret program and current events in Iraq. The film does a nice job introducing characters and balancing themes and linking them between the two halves of the story. Although it isn’t a full-blown comedy, The Men Who Stare at Goats does get lots of laughs out of the insanity of its premise and the resulting situations. George Clooney is terrific as a delusional would-be psychic and he sells the belief his character has in his own nonexistent powers, and in the process he largely sells the movie. The great performance in the film is given by Jeff Bridges as the founder and leader of the psychic program; the character’s back story is fascinating and probably could have been a film in and of itself. The final act of the story switches gears from being goofy and somewhat irreverent into a redemption story. It’s in this last section that The Men Who Stare at Goats really shines, Bridges in particular, and it gives the film a satisfying close to the story. 

What Doesn’t: The portion of the story dealing with Ewan McGregor’s character does not fit as well. McGregor does a fine job with the material he is given, but the role is underwritten and the opening and closing that ought to bookend the film and bring it together feels tagged on and superfluous.

Bottom Line: The Men Who Stare at Goats is a pretty good film. Despite being a little distracted in the beginning and ending, the satire is successful and there are some great performances here.

Episode: #265 (November 15, 2009)