Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

There are cases where getting exactly what you asked for is the worst thing that can happen.  Take, for example, Bob Wilton.  He’s your average newspaper reporter from Ann Arbor.  His life is about as exciting as you’d expect.  This may be why his wife is leaving him for his editor.  Bob needs something big and he needs it now.  Unfortunately, the biggest story he can find is Gus Lacey, the town wacko.  He has all sorts of stories about remote viewing and the Loch Ness Monster.  What’s Bob to do?

He decides to get himself over to Iraq.  It’s 2002 and a good, manly story is bound to head his way and help him win his wife back.  He gets as far as Kuwait, where he meets Lyn Cassady.  Lyn Cassady happens to be one of the names that Lacey mentioned, giving Bob an in.  Cassady is able to expand on The New Earth Army, giving Wilton all sorts of information.  (Maybe Lacey wasn’t such a wacko after all.)

Cassady is able to get Wilton into Iraq, which isn’t necessarily a great thing.  It isn’t long before Cassady and Wilton get stranded and subsequently abducted.  Cassady is able to get them both out of trouble, all the while telling Wilton about the project that he was involved in.  Wilton gets his story, which he’s able to bring back and tell.

The movie is based on a book that accompanied a three-part documentary.  From what I can tell, the book was more nonfiction where this had more of the Hollywood treatment.  It begins with “More of this is true than you would believe.”  This may be, but there is an absurdity to the movie.  Not everyone is going to take psychic warriors and remote viewing seriously, as it tends to be difficult to replicate.  (Cassady is shown as a prodigy, but then again, he is the one telling Wilton the story.)

There are a lot of big names in the movie.  Ewan McGregor plays Wilton.  George Clooney plays Cassady.  You also have Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey as former members of The New Age Army.  I didn’t feel like anyone was out of place or anyone’s talents were wasted.  The movie simply wasn’t what I expected.  It’s not a particularly deep-message kind of movie.  It’s not something where you come away feeling like you learned something.  Instead, it’s about someone who had to go on a journey.  At times, it felt like it dragged a bit.  There wasn’t a lot of suspense or urgency.

It’s strange to think that this was actually based on truth.  There apparently was a First Earth Battalion.  Many of the characters are based on real people.  The thing is that there’s no real sense of urgency.  There are no countdowns.  There’s no bomb waiting to go off if they cut the wrong wire.  Wilton gets that Cassady is looking for someone, but there’s no rush.  It sounds like the kind of story you’d tell at a party or something.  (“So, then they guy let us use his car…”)

Fortunately, Clooney and McGregor are able to carry the movie.  It’s entertaining enough that I was able to watch the movie for the entire 93 minutes.  Still, it was one of those movies where I was waiting for an explosion.  I was kind of hoping for something big to happen.  It’s hard to recommend.  It was good, but it wasn’t great.  If you can get it streaming or it comes on HBO, go for it.  Otherwise, I’d probably recommend waiting.


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