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The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

No goats. No glory.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Where do you start with the storyline to The Men Who Stare at Goats? It’s about the US Army’s First Earth Battalion who try merge hippy philosophies with warfare to take down the enemy with peace and love. These chosen few believe that they can walk through walls, find hostages through remote viewing and kill goats by staring at them. For reasons unknown, the US Army buys into it and pumps shedloads of money into the battalion’s research during the Seventies. During the present mess in Iraq, there may be elite detachments of Earth Soldiers (or Jedis) lurking somewhere in the desert.

This all sounds like a pretty absurd concept for a film but the disturbingly funny thing is that that much of this is true – proving that truth is often stranger than fiction. The idea of a collection of Jedi Warriors being taken seriously by the US Army is comedy gold and thankfully this opportunity is not squandered. Heslov has created a fast-paced, constantly witty and, above all, smart film. Surprisingly, for a Clooney vehicle nowadays, it’s not too heavy on the politics and so is great for the casual moviegoer as well as those wanting bit of satire. The Men Who Stare At Goats is such a success as everything comes together so well – the tongue-in-cheek comedy, the sing-a-long soundtrack and a great bunch of characters and actors.

The two lead characters complement each other excellently. Ewan McGregor as a ready-to-believe reporter gives his subjects enough rope with which to hang themselves, and George Clooney, dons his newest variety of facial hair as the wonderfully deadpan off-his-rocker Jedi. As it is done with enough subtlety, the little believer in you may be left hanging on, wondering if these men can really do the ridiculous things they say they can. The flashback scenes are the real fun of the film as we learn of the battalion’s beginnings. So easy to do, with a few dodgy haircuts and moustaches, but so well executed, especially with the inclusion of the ever-reliable Jeff Bridges as the group’s guru. They set the scene and tie the film together by punctuating Lyn (Clooney) and Bob’s (McGregor) calamitous journey into Iraq.

This is the most feelgood a movie that could ever come out of the Iraq war – so much so that you can almost come out thinking, ‘Wasn’t the Bush administration great?’ That is because it’s about these oddball characters and not about the deep underlying issues of the war, however, the envelope could have been pushed a little with more biting satire. The book by John Ronson does this with great success by turning on the US’s interrogation techniques half way through – maybe the film could have earned a little sticking power by following suit.

It's Got: Goats, lashings of tongue-in-cheek humour, great cast

It Needs: A little more biting satire


This fast-paced, witty and smart blend of the Star and Iraq wars is one of the best military satires to date.