Thursday, 3 December 2009

Alex Errey Film Review! The Men Who Stare At Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats
"No Goats, No Glory"

Released - 6th November 2009
Run time - 94 mins
Certificate - 15: Contains drug references and brief Nudity

Director - Grant Heslov
Writers - Peter Straughan (Screenplay)
Jon Ronson (Book)
Cast - George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Stephen Lang

BBC Films
Smoke House
Westgate Film Services

It's not very often I get a chance to go to the cinema, usually due to a lack of funds or not being brave enough to go by myself. Luckily, I was able to go with my friend Skwiggles, to a screening of the Coen brothers new film, "A Serious Man". Sadly though, his homework wasn't very good and the film wasn't showing that evening, it didn't seem that the film was on at that cinema at all, just endless screenings of "Up" or "Twilight: New Moon". After much groaning and one Subway Sandwich later, the decision was made to go see "The Men Who Stare at Goats", I had heard abit about it but was intrigued to find out for myself whether it was worth the ticket price, which actually turned out to be quite reasonable.

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a journalist. He's recently divorced and like all heartbroken men, he goes to war. While trying to find a story worthy of rubbing in the faces of other war correspondents, Bob meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a guy who claims to be a former member in the US Army's First Earth Battalion, a unit that practised paranormal skills in their missions . When Lyn has to make a business deal somewhere in Iraq, Bob tags along to find out whether there is some truth to it all. Along the way we learn of the mentor Lyn looked up to so highly and what happened to the rest of the Jedi Warriors. What really happened to "The men Who Stare at Goats"?

Firstly, I must point out that this filmed is adapted from the best selling book of the same title, if I had know that I was going to see this film, I would have read it beforehand. Trying to get understand the film as a bigger picture can be difficult otherwise. The film can easily stand alone but the experience may be better if you do your research first. "The Men Who Stare at Goats" is based upon a true story, more of it is true than false. That can be very hard to grasp, no matter how hard it is for us to accept that Paranormal studies were once used in the US Army, it happened.

It's always nice to see a film starring George Clooney, most of us have seen his work and he always seems to fit the role, as if spending months trying to make the character workable. All I can say is, he certainly has talent. Jeff Bridges makes an appearance as a strangely familiar person. For those of you who are fans of the Coen Brothers, you will easily be forgiven for suggesting that Bill could easily be mistaken for The Dude, from "The Big Lebowski" fame. I'm not a fan or actors putting on accents, especially not when it's British to American. Ewan McGregor had to put on an accent for the role of Bob, even though it's a very good accent, I'd rather hear him in his native Scottish Tongue. With a story like this, it's hard to not get a Star Wars reference in and without reading the book I can't give you a great account of the truth about some of the names in the film.

The paranormal super soldier program in "The Men Who Stare at Goats" is known as project Jedi. The script certainly plays off this fact, many references to the force and the darkside crop up in intervals that are UN-satisfyingly short. I still can't work out if the role of Bob was given to Ewan purely for that reason. Having a constant in-joke that Ewan was in the Star Wars Prequels certainly tickles but was defiantly unnecessary. Another thing that's blatantly clear, is that the film struggles to define itself. The first 20 minutes alone position the flick for a thriller/drama overview but 5 minutes later, it turns out to be a comedy and when you finally work out what pillar it's leaning against, it returns to the blender for another thorough mixing. There are two ways to watch this film, either as a Mockumentary, taking thee mick out of the Americans for practising paranormal activities in the army, or a comical Documentary, non-fiction with comical tendency's to draw in a different crowd. Take your pick.

Some films sit highly with me, I watch them then buy them. With "The Men Who Stare at Goats", I'm still undecided. When it comes to DVD in late March 2010, I may be willing to give it another chance to blow my skirt up, I honestly don't think this film is for big screen viewing. A night in with the family maybe, I don't think it's worth the cost of transport. Just keep it in mind if you're struggling for viewing pleasure next year.

Alex Errey


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