Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Men Who Stare at Goats

The best stories are filled with half truths and half lies!

The Men Who Stare at Goats | A Constantly Racing Mind
When watching film trailers, you make a mental note of whether you want to see a picture or not. At the same time the trailer sets expectations in that part of your brain of what kind of experience you should expect from a film. The trailer for "The Men Who Stare" at Goats, sets the viewer up for a satirical look at our military, our pop-culture, and our government. The question is, does the film "The Men Who Stare at Goats," deliver? Think of it this way; when you have Everett (George Clooney, from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, from "Star Wars") discussing with "The Dude" (Jeff Bridges, from "The Big Lebowski") and the subject of Remote Viewing (yes it's real), while taking a road trip through Iraq, trying to capture the spirit of Kerouac’s "On The Road," but more reminiscent of a Crosby and Hope's, "On the Road." films, you got to say to yourself, this must be a joke--but who is the joke on? This offbeat, hippy spouting, paranormal-conspiracy, war-comedy takes all of us by surprise.

Our anti-hero, Bob Wilton, from time to time offers a narration during "The Men Who Stare At Goats" like Martin Sheen's Capt. Benjamin Willard narrates "Apocalypse Now," hell, he even semi-quotes the good Capt. Willard with this phrase, "for my sins, they taught me a lesson," well its close enough to the real quote for me. Bob is a reporter for the Ann Arbor Daily Telegram, where he and his wife work. One day the editor sends Bob on a fluff assignment to interview the crazy Gus Lacey (Stephen Root) who turns us on to the concept of remote viewing, the padawan Lyn Cassady (Cooney), and his mentor Bill Django (Bridges). A quick note for you; the writers seem to be referencing Bill's wandering nature, thus giving him the first name of the famous gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Rhinehardt. An epiphanic moment for Bob and his wife Debora is when an extra large co-worker dies leaving his death mask imprinted on his desk table. Debora dumps Bob for his editor, and in typical Beau Geste fashion, Bob joins the army as a free-lance reporter. Arriving in Kuwait, without permission to enter Iraq and capture the war stories that would prove to his ex-wife that he is someone. A chance encounter with Lyn Cassady in Kuwait provides Bob the opportunity to learn the story of the New Earth Army, and a glimpse into how the government wasted our tax dollars during the Reagan era. As the two begin their travels together into Iraq, Lyn tells the story of Bill Django and his teachings while explaining and demonstrating, with a straight face, the concept of the ethos of the warrior-monk, along with the warrior code of peace, love, and understanding. Lyn explains to Bob how as a Jedi he has control of people's mind and can control them. Imagine Everet explaining to Obi-Wan what a Jedi is, and watch Ewan's face when Clooney explains the "sparkle technique." My favorite line form this movie comes when Bob is running narration mentions that there are times when the little voices inside his head, the ones that tell him what to do, tell him to “scream like little girls," prompting Bob to run hands flailing in the air, screaming high pitched, girl like, and highly un-Obi Wan like. Make no mistake, Clooney and McGregor are not afraid of looking foolish, they are paid for it. In one of the many flashbacks that mine this film like IEDs, Lyn tells Bob how he was seduced by the Dark Side, betrayed by one of their own, Lt Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), whom, after he disgraces their commanding officer, Bill Django, the Army forces Bill to take early retirement. Larry becomes a henchman for the new commander in charge of their Psionic Training Division. Larry coerces Lyn to prove his psychic powers by staring at a goat long enough, causing the goat's heart to stop thus defiling the pure nature of the warrior-monk.

Present day--Bob and Lyn are stuck after Lyn crashed and damaged his truck against the only rock in the middle of the desert. Iraqi criminals capture the duo with the intention of selling them to other Iraqi criminals; meanwhile the two captives start a banter that reminds one of Bing Crosby & Bob Hope, and the Jedi references keep this movie form dragging. Based on the non-fiction book of the same title of the movie by Jon Ronson, the film is an attempt to recreate the sense of the Army's experiments into New Age thinking. The movie brings us the concept of torture by the kids show, "Barney and Friends," not necessarily a novel concept; how many of us with small kids have had our minds turn to mush by the oversized purple devil. How many movies have you seen teach us that sheep can be de-bleated? Or the legendary Dim Mak -- the touch of death, one touch and you're dead - in about 18 years! Jeff Bridges is The Dude in uniform, a Colonel with long hair, braided in a ponytail, he stands up for his men, denying charges of using government money for prostitutes; however, he did by drugs for the guys, upstanding guy this Bill Django is.

"The Men Who Stare At Goats" moves quickly so any of the rough scenes don't last too long. The music is passable and, so is the photography, nothing remarkable there. You never truly know where the fiction ends, and the truth is, so the viewer will probably err on the side of fiction. The director made the movie for cheap laughs, a spoof on the actors and their character. The joke is on them, and we are just along for the ride. The ending is ultimately anti-climatic and leaves the viewer wondering if they missed something? Conspiracy theory buffs will get a kick from this flick, and so will you.

Movie Data

Genre:  Comedy, War
Year:   2009
Staring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey
Director:  Grant Heslov
Producer(s)  George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Paul Lister
Writer: Peter Straughan , Jon Ronson
Rating:  R

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