Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Men Who Stare At Goats

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language, some drug content and brief nudity
Profanity:Very strong language
Nudity/Sex:Brief non-sexual nudity (male rear view), topless women
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, drunkenness, drugs including catasrophic use of LSD
Violence/Scariness:Wartime violence including guns and explosions, suicide, pile of corpses
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:November 6, 2009
DVD Release Date:March 23, 2010

“More of this is true than you would believe,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats” cheekily informs us as it opens. And while its tone is high satire, even farce, the story it tells is not hard to believe at all. Military officials are portrayed as credulous, ineffectual, and petty. But they are also portrayed as candid, open-minded, and forthright. Much of what goes on in the military’s 20-plus-year exploration of what we used to call the “human potential movement” seems outlandish, but those were outlandish times. And one aspect rings especially true. According to this film, based on the non-fiction book by debunking Welsh journalist Jon Ronson, the real reason the US and the USSR entered into these “new age” programs was that each was convinced the other was doing it. So much for the efficacy of “remote viewing.”

That would be the power to see something mentally that could not be seen visually, either because it was too far away or on the other side of a wall. This division, led by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), whose long, gray braid hangs down over his fatigues, experiments with all categories of extra-sensory perception including telekinesis (the ability to affect objects without touching them), clairvoyance (the ability to read minds), and precognition (the ability to predict the future).

Jeff Bridges, as a Viet Nam vet who explores the new age fads of the 1970’s, one hot tub at a time, conveys slightly seedy optimism in the early days of the program and shows us the consequences of too much mind-bending at the end. Kevin Spacey is the ambitious psychiatrist who guides the program as it mutates from exploring what our troops can do to exploring how what we have learned can take away from the humanity of the enemy troops we capture. George Clooney centers the film as the most gifted of the program’s subjects, a man who seeks some way to integrate his abilities and experiences to find some meaning in the effort. But Ewan McGregor never convinces us that he is a dumped husband, a reporter, or an American. The reference to Jedi warriors just reminds us of his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” movies and makes his appearance seem like an in-joke.

The light-heartedness of the movie’s tone goes from pratfall humor to a wrenching depiction of the consequences of foolishness. It is smart enough not to be entirely dismissive of the idea that some or all people may have some uncharted capabilities we should try to understand and focus. But it is clear that none of that will do much good against a gun and that the efforts to pursue it may lead to extensive personal and organizational trauma. The main character is unhappy that his scoop is almost entirely ignored when it is published. The media picks up only on the side detail that Barney music was used to break the spirits of prisoners. The pernicious influence of that song appears to have been the only usable information produced by the program; something that any parent of a toddler could have conveyed with great enthusiasm. If this movie directs more attention to Ronson’s findings, that will be gratifying to him, but to us it should also be an important lesson about how one factor in allowing large organizations get out of control is that no one is paying attention.



  • Melissa

    The information given on this movie is incorrect. I rented it to watch with my son and within the first 15 minutes there was frontal female nudity. Specifically women in a hot tub who were shown from below their breast up. Or is this not considered nudity anymore? This review was specific that it had male rear view nudity.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Melissa. I will make the correction.

  • Melissa

    Thank you for the correction. I almost always reference to your site before watching a movie with our family. This has been the only time I have found the information inaccurate.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Melissa! I count on my wonderful readers to tell me when I get it wrong.

Previous Posts

This Week on USA: "Dig," Set in Jerusalem
I've been looking forward to this since I got a sneak peek last year at Comic-Con: "Dig" premieres on USA March 5, 2015 at 10 pm (9 Central), starring Jason Isaac and Anne Heche in a mystery miniseries filmed in part in Jerusalem. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embe

posted 8:00:49am Mar. 03, 2015 | read full post »

Contest: Win a PBS Kids Prize Pack! Peg and Cat, Caillou, and WordWorld!
[gallery link="none" ids="33319,33320,33321"] PBS Kids has three magnificent new DVDs, and I have two prize packs to give away! Peg + Cat: Peg Rocks features seven stories from PBS KIDS’ popular PEG + CAT series. Solving problems is even more AWESOME when music is involved! This new toe-tapp

posted 11:04:14pm Mar. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: A Royal Night Out
It's like a real-life "Roman Holiday."  According to this film, on the night victory was declared in WWII, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister, Princess Margaret were given permission by their father (the "King's Speech" guy) for an incognito night of celebration.  It looks

posted 6:30:21pm Mar. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!
[iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uI1SqfJvvCk?rel=0" frameborder="0"] And don't forget the only live action film written by Dr. Seuss, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T! [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgpfMxYFSmE[/youtube]

posted 11:12:17am Mar. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Going Clear -- Documentary About Scientology
HBO will show Alex Gibney's new documentary about Scientology on March 29, 2015. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zllYkNu1sl4?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:17am Mar. 02, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.