The Men Who Stare At Goats
Directed by Grant Heslov
Released in 2009
"The Men Who Stare At Goats: A Film By The Coen Brothers."
That is actually not true, like many parts of the film, but it might as well be. This movie has as much Coen Brothers quirkiness and humor as The Big Lebowski. It can be very uneven at parts but, in the end, The Men Who Stare At Goats is an enjoyable ride.
Based off a book by Jon Ronson and directed by Grant Heslov (a producer and writer of Good Night, Good Luck), The Men Who Stare At Goats is a strangely named film about the story of Bob Wilton, played by Ewan McGregor, an Ann Arbor journalist who, after being dumped by his girlfriend, is seeking for reckless adventure. He finds it in Kuwait when he meets Lyn Cassady, George Clooney in a mix between his nutty Burn After Reading character and the chill Danny Ocean from the Ocean's series. Bob heard of Lyn back in the States when he interviewed a supposed "super soldier" who had psychic powers. He mentioned Lyn as being the best of the best, someone able to stop a goat's heart from beating by merely staring at it. When Bob and Lyn go into Iraq on a joint effort, they run into kidnappers, a Coen's staple, and must escape. Flashbacks are also shown in between the current day action, such as a hippie Lyn Cassady receiving training from Bill Django, basically an aged version of The Dude played by Jeff Bridges. The similarities between this character and The Dude in The Big Lebowski are the main reason why this movie seems so akin to a Coens film, though the general vibe it has definitely attributes to this. More plot and events develop as the movie progresses, but, much like the state of many of the character throughout the film, it all seems to be under the influence of questionable substances.
Kevin Spacey makes an all-too-short appearance as Larry Hooper, a soldier with a grudge against Lyn and Bill. His deadpan delivery is a bright spot of the film and the ratty moustache he wears also ends up being one of the film's best jokes. The title of the film can be seen as a joke in itself as well. The psychic powers are never fully revealed or shown besides a few questionable occurrences. There is no denying that the title really draws in the passerby though. Kudos to the marketing team then. The movie also claims some of the events to be true without asserting any proof. Some people have been bothered by this but I find it humorous as well as drawing yet another parallel to the Coen Brothers. Their masterwork Fargo starts with the line "THIS IS A TRUE STORY," even when the entire story was a fabrication of Joel and Ethan's mind. The Middle Eastern setting makes The Men Who Stare At Goats a more debatable story, though it is almost certainly false.
When looking at The Men Who Stare At Goats from the bigger picture, it does not leave the brightest impression. The story was jumbled and the characters never were fully-developed. However, the fun in this film lies in the minute-to-minute scenes. Kevin Spacey giving Clooney a "death palm" and George's hilarious reaction to are where the film finds its strengths. The Dude (I cannot call him anything else), old and overweight, with a ripped open shirt flying a helicopter while on LSD is priceless in itself. McGregor's narration can be a bit bland at times but his final scene is a good parody, or realization, of the film's events. I certainly recommend any Coen Brothers fan to see The Men Who Stare At Goats. Some may be left flabbergasted but that is the point. It was a wild acid trip while it lasted: you may not remember all of it but you can recall it being a fun ride.
Final Verdict:3 Stars Out of 5