Monday, 9 November 2009


Director: Grant Heslov
Writers: Peter Straughan, Jon Ronson (book)
Starring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey
Released: 6th November

This could just be the most entertaining war film ever made. While The Men Who Stare At Goats, a tripped-out buddy movie, is set mainly during the War on Terror, it is consistently hilarious, getting genuine laughs amidst the shoot-outs and kidnappings. It's an unapolagetically light-hearted film, from the Supergrass-scored opening credits onwards, and you're left in no doubt - the first scene features an army general running face-first into a wall, and Clooney's 'sparkly eyes technique' is hilarious.

Ewan McGregor has easily the least interesting part to play, the journalist thrust into an investigation of psychic warfare, and teaming up with Clooney's Lyn Cassady, the 'Jedi Warrior' on a secret mission. McGregor has a weird nearly-American accent, playing Bob Wilton, the fictionalised version of English journalist Jon Ronson. Clooney is the real star, obviously, playing the disillusioned, arrogant, hard-drinking Warrior Monk and his younger, more optimistic self with his usual charm and great use of eyebrows.

Spacey plays the well-written sort-of villain with his usual smoothness - tripping on acid, he points a gun at Clooney, then puts it in his mouth, then abruptly wanders off, mumbling "wow, I'm really hungry." Jeff Bridges as Bill Django, New Age mentalist and writer of the 'New Earth Army Handbook', is brilliant, advising the mulleted Clooney that "you can't free your mind until you free your feet." What's more amazing is that it's nearly all true - there really was a black ops psychic division, they did try to kill goats by staring at them, and so on. Pick up the book, it's a fascinating read.

The Men Who Stare At Goats looks like a war film, with the bleached browns and greys and sweat and dirt, but is really an unashamedly feelgood movie. The dark side of the War on Terror is barely touched on, and as soon as things get bad, you know they're going to get better, because it's so Hollywood. It doesn't preach - war is bad, great, but what we really need is escapism. Heslov, Clooney and co deliver it brilliantly, with heavy use of 'More Than A Feeling' by Boston. Quality.

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