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

A Dramatic Commercial for TNT
I love this commercial for TNT! [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIkPeZKP-d4[/youtube]

posted 8:33:40am Apr. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Movie Stingers: Scenes After the Credits
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRJ38y4Jn6k[/youtube] Ferris Bueller had one.  Marvel superhero movies sometimes have two.  When did it become a thing to have a scene after the credits (sometimes called a stinger)? New York Magazine's Vulture column has the history of these extended

posted 8:00:47am Apr. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Fading Gigolo
John Turturro wrote, directed, and stars in "Fading Gigolo," a bittersweet meditation on the ways we seek and hide from intimacy, sometimes at the same time. Turturro plays Fioravante, a florist who works part-time for Murray (Woody Allen), the third-generation proprietor of a used and rare books

posted 9:24:32pm Apr. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Transcendence
Think of it as "Her 2: The Revenge of Him." Or Samantha infected by Heartbleed. Just as in last holiday season's Her, "Transcendence" is the story of an artificial intelligence contained in a computer program that becomes or is seen as human consciousness.  Instead of the warm, affectionate voic

posted 6:00:39pm Apr. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Bears
This year's Disney Nature release for Earth Day is "Bears," the story of an Alaskan bear named Sky and her twin cubs, Scout and Amber, their trek from the den where they've hibernated all winter t

posted 6:00:05pm Apr. 17, 2014 | 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.