I love it when a film comes along and truly blows me out of the water as far as understanding exactly what is going on or coming from so far out in left field that it had to buy a bus ticket. Burn After Reading is a prime example of this because the trailers looked rather amusing but I never really knew what it was all about. Once my first viewing was over, my mind was relatively blown and it is still a film that graces my Blu-ray player quite often. The Men Who Stare at Goats didn’t really sneak up on me though because the title alone lets you know that isn’t going to be exactly “normal.” Little did I realize just how off the wall it truly would be and also that it would try and deliver a message to me all at the same time.
Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a reporter that recently saw his entire life fall apart before his very eyes. His career wasn’t really going anywhere and his wife had just left him for their one-armed editor. Yes, one-armed. Wilton knew he needed to do something drastic to get his mind off of things so he decided to head into war territory and break the biggest story he could find. While overseas, he runs into Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) whose name he has heard before while doing a report on psychic abilities being able to kill animals simply by staring at them. Upon speaking with Cassady, Wilton learns that he is there on a secret mission and must use his psychic abilities in order to carry it out in secret. Bob Wilton may have finally found the huge story he has been looking for, but he truly has no idea just what is in his future.
That short description barely begins to touch the surface of all that goes on during this rather short ninety-minute film. What is really going on here is the true story telling of the New Earth Army that believes they are able to do psychic things with their mind and control warfare through nothing more than their thoughts. Throughout the film there is so much lunacy going on that you just can’t help but laugh at times as to what you’re witnessing on screen. More so than anything though, you’re listening to the story being told by Bob Wilton and how much he really can’t believe all he is experiencing but knows it will make for good press. As any good reporter will do, he sets out to find the history and everything that goes along with the New Earth Army which leads him to meet up with numerous characters that are extremely far from sane. Or are they?
The Men Who Stare at Goats starts out rather slow but then begins to pick up a good bit once McGregor’s Wilton meets up with George Clooney’s Cassady. Clooney is really spot on in playing a deranged lunatic that can be passed off as totally fine if you passed him on the street. His character here actually reminds me a lot of Harry Pfarrer (Clooney) in Burn After Reading and that is a good thing because I think they are both equally hilarious. My problem with the film is that I expected it to get even better once Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges appeared on screen. Bridges was in it a lot early on but mostly in just flashbacks so it didn’t account for much. Sadly, it got a bit dull once those two showed up and started turning into a big lesson learning event rather than a comedic masterpiece.
It’s not a bad film at all, but somehow it feels to take too long while literally being too short. Then when all is said and done, you’ll have wished they finished the story earlier while the going was still good. Talk about a mixed bag.
The film is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and all looks good for the most part but there appeared to be a few compression issues from time to time. Different scenes, usually in the desert, just looked to be a bit stretched and distorted. Other than that, all seemed alright as far as colors go.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and there are absolutely no problems in this department. The Men Who Stare at Goats is mostly dialogue driven and never did I have issues with hearing any of it or have to worry about constantly adjusting the volume.
Goats Declassified – This featurette focuses on the real men of the First Earth Battalion and it is “interesting” to say the least. Some of them are angry at the film while some are content with it because their secrets were kept hidden while just author Jon Ronson’s were revealed. Kind of fun to listen to them talk about what they went through and did which holds very similar to all that you see in the film. I could have strangely listened to another hour of this. (12:30)
Project “Hollywood” – A short behind-the-scenes featurette with more cast and crew interview than anything else. Not bad and kind of humorous at times. Kevin Spacey actually even says that George Clooney is close to channeling John Cleese in this film. Talk about a compliment. (7:34)
Audio Commentaries – Two commentary tracks are available and the first is director Grant Heslov flying solo.
Our second track has author Jon Ronson sitting by himself.
Character Bios – Virtually here you have two extended trailers focusing on the main characters in the film. (4:46)
Deleted Scenes – A small handful of scenes that are more extended rather then deleted. Nothing of real interest so good that they were cut. (4:12)
Trailers – The Crazies, Spartacus: Blood And Sand, The Slammin’ Salmon, Law Abiding Citizen, and Party Down
Mediocre. Hilarious. Confusing. Dull. Insane. Boring. Amusing. Run of the mill. Off the wall. Any of those can be used to summarize The Men Who Stare at Goats, but I’d prefer to use all of them together in my description because that is exactly what it is. There were moments I was truly enjoying it and other times when it just needed to stop trying to be so damn Hollywood. Give this one a rental sometime because it’s worth watching if even just for the fact that most of what you are seeing really happened and knowing there are some people out there that batsh*t insane gives you a bit of hope in the human race. Or discouragement, you’re choice.
Overture Films presents The Men Who Stare at Goats. Directed by: Grant Heslov. Starring: George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor. Written by: Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: March 23, 2010. Available at Amazon.com