Written by: Peter Straughan
Directed by: Grant Heslov
Starring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges.
“More of this is true than you would believe”...
This is how the film starts and as it progresses one can’t help but become fascinated by what the true parts are because every facet of this film is quite simply insane! The film revolves around journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) who becomes involved with former “psychic spy” Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney) while trying to get across the Iraq border. As he uncovers Lyn’s story through a series of very entertaining flashbacks he finds out more than he wants to about the lengths his government is willing to go to out-think the Russians and, later, the Iraqis.
The film stays somewhat on the fence about whether Cassidy is an eccentric super-soldier or a crazed hippie madman but the heart of the film lies in the tragedy of the corruption of something you believe in. Whether or not these people are insane doesn’t matter when you see the evil Hooper (Kevin Spacey) abusing what he has learned from the shaman-like Bill Django (Jeff Bridges). A genuinely likeable film, it pained me to see it go so downhill. But it nevertheless did just that. The plot began to ramble, losing all credibility along the way. It became obvious that Ewan McGregor wasn’t working in this role and was having way too much fun to even try. In fact, it began to feel a little bit like everybody was having way too fun and cared little about professionalism. By the time they put LSD in everybody’s drinking water, they had totally lost me.
It seems to me that an outlandish story, very importantly must keep its feet on the ground in every other sense. That is why a film like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or David Lynch’s Eraserhead can work, they make little sense logically, but they act as if they do. The Men Who Stare at Goats doesn’t really care about being coherent, clearly more focussed on having a laugh, and letting the actors go nuts.
Director Grant Heslov shows his inexperience and proves that he should stick to writing, a role in which he is clearly more disciplined. This film for all its insanity is very entertaining, extremely funny and George Clooney and Jeff Bridges turn in some hilarious performances. Also, for an Iraq movie, it nicely avoids waxing lyrical on the subject and keeps quiet to a large extent, remaining within its own world, only coming in contact with the war when it suits the plot.
This is a very unusual, very funny and very clever film, made all the more interesting because of its unlikely basis on fact. However, it does lose the run of itself midway and becomes a mess of epic proportions.