While you might need to be on an acid trip to fully enjoy The Men Who Stare At Goats, you probably won't regret seeing it.
The story follows Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), a reporter tailing self-proclaimed "Jedi Warrior" Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), on a mysterious mission across the desert of Iraq, learning about a military "psychic spy" program along the way.
The project, dubbed "The New Earth Army," was founded by a New Age enthusiast and hippie played by Jeff Bridges. Supposedly based on actual military experimentation during the Cold War, Bridges and his army experiment with psychic powers until they uncover a darker side to innovation and the operation is shut down.
Oh, and of course there are goats, which men stare at as part of their psychic training.
Several moments in the movie are genuinely funny, such as Cassady's description of the "sparkly eye technique." Also, after seeing this movie, "lethality" might just be your new favorite word. In one scene, Cassady prompts Wilton to "attack him" (finger quotes included) and Wilton asks, "What's with the quotation fingers? That's like saying I can only ironically attack you."
Clooney is fantastically quirky as Cassady and plays off McGregor's fresh-faced reporter with hilarious results - usually involving McGregor writhing on the ground in pain while Clooney spouts some absurd lesson about psychic influence.
There is one surprisingly poignant moment in the film between Cassady and an Iraqi man named Mahmud. Each apologizes for those who give their countries their stereotypes: Cassady for an American security company and Mahmud for the men who they'd just come across in the desert. Cassady tries to explain not all Americans are like the corporate suits, while Mahmud replies that not all Iraqis are like the bandits who had just robbed and kidnapped them.
The scene resonates with a very powerful anti-war message: the men on the other side might not be that different from the guys next door. While some of the film seems over-the-top in its anti-militarism, this gentle moment of cross-cultural understanding makes the most impact.
The conclusion of the movie is odd to say the least, and leaves a lot to be desired. Loose ends are left untied and Wilton doesn't really get any closure so we as the viewers don't either. In other words, the movie is enjoyable, but definitely leaves you wanting more.
If you are a hippie that grew up in the '70s, you might appreciate Goats more than this child of the '90s did. Even so, the acting is entertaining and the film creates a fairly effective mix of social commentary and understated comedy.
The Men Who Stare At GoatsNow in Theatres3.5 out of 5