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‘The Men Who Stare at Goats': Two Hours Worth Staring At

If you’re never one to pass up a good History Channel special on rumored/potential military applications of remote viewing, the psychic ability to locate long-range, unseen targets, then this George Clooney vehicle, inspired by Jon Ronson’s best-selling non-fiction book about the U.S. Government’s exploration into paranormal combat methods, is for you. But even if you aren’t familiar with the Stanford Research Institute or the Stargate Project, you will enjoy this wacky inspirational, morality tale of a movie.
A former member of the New Earth Army, a 1970/80s secret legion of New Age, psychic “warrior monks,” Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) is on a mission to find the unit’s former leader, Bill Django (Jeff Bridges). Joined by a mid-market reporter, Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), the two take off through the Iraqi desert on a hilarious journey, full of pitfalls and pit stops, in which he tutors the journalist in the ways of the “Jedi Warriors.” (Yes, you read that right.)


Directed by Grant Heslov, a long-time George Clooney collaborator, Clooney gives a wonderful, quirky performance, proving once again that he is probably the most versatile box office leading man of today. And while I love Ewan McGregor in this role, I also found the constant references to the Jedi (which are historically accurate) to be too distracting, too wink-wink-nudge-nudge, creating tiny tears in the fourth wall. Kevin Spacey is perfect as a former member of the unit who taps into the dark side of parapsychology and Jeff Bridges is sublime as the flower power preaching Django.
The film does have its flaws: pacing could have been tightened at points while the ending moved too quickly, but it provides a fascinating contrast between a post-Vietnam peacetime Army with the, some would say, luxury of embracing New Age combat alternatives and the past eight years’ narrowly focused wartime military with no time or space for discussions of trying to create warrior monks. And while the film is subtly suggesting that we should take the time, the point of the film, to me, doesn’t lie in its politics, it’s that it’s never made completely clear if Lynn can really burst clouds with his mind, or if the “sparkly eyes” really work, or if the titular goat’s heart really stopped. As Bob’s incredulity melts away so does the audience’s: Lyn’s absolute faith in something greater than himself, in his case peaceful, humanitarian means of conflict resolution, is insidiously inspiring and you find yourself rooting for him whether you think he’s got your goat or not.

  • EstherK

    Sounds rad to me – I love quirky Clooney (almost as much as snarky Clooney, sexy Clooney, or even handyman from “Facts of Life” Clooney). Plus, gotta love the additional level of the former Ben Kenobi schooling Jedis. And PS, Boba Fett’s father was the homophonous Jango. Coincidence? I think these are just the droids I’ve been looking for. I know, I’m hopelessly nerdy. I’m embracing it, so that’s good. I guess. :)

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