In The Men Who Stare at Goats, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey play fearless Jedi warriors who use the force – though they never actually call it that – to control minds, run through walls and telepathically murder animals. But SCI-FI geeks ought to note that this film has absolutely nothing to do with Star Wars; if George Lucas were sitting in the audience he’d be thinking WTF? just like everybody else.
And if you accept the film’s opening caption – “more of this is true than you would believe” – that three letter acronym is an accurate description of what viewers will make of this kooky left-of-centre political comedy.
Our window into this strange-but-we-swear-it’s-sort-of-true world is opened by journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) who flies to Kuwait to investigate the Iraq war and meets Special Forces operator Lyn Cassady (George Clooney). “Special” is right, as Lyn is a member of the “New Earthy Army” and has been trained in psychic abilities.
The story is rooted in present day Iraq as Bob and Lyn encounter various spots of bother and intermittently flashes back to the 70s, in which army-cum-hippy-cum-army crazy-but-is-he tripper Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) teaches his recruits via amusingly bizarre means.
Lashings of funny absurdist banter splashes across an episodic plotline, though the film’s something-funny-in-the-water (in one scene literally) grasp of comedy isn’t for all tastes. Times in which the story approaches the frustratingly inconsequential are alleviated by a bunch of endearing wink-wink performances from an in-on-the-joke cast, and director Grant Heslov’s loopy wrap-up ends the film on a perfectly upbeat note.
The Men Who Stare at Goats’ Australian theatrical release date: March 4, 2010.