The Men Who Stare At Goats is the story of psychic powered government super troopers, written in 2004 by John Ronson. Reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge!) leaves the US for war-torn Kuwait after his wife leaves him. Bob stumbles upon a potentially career defining story after meeting Special Forces operator, Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney, Burn After Reading), who reveals that he was part of a US army unit that trained psychic spies, internally referred to as “Jedi Knights” (Down, geeks! The irony is readily apparent). The psychic super soldiers are trained in several paranormal techniques including: cloud bursting, walking through walls, invisibility, remote viewing and, yes, the ability to stare a goat to death in a matter of seconds.
The technique was developed in the 70’s by Bill Django, played by a very hippie, Jeff Bridges (Yes, just like his character “the Dude” from The Big Lebowski). Django was recruited in the 80’s to form and train a special unit known as the New Earth Army.
The team is decommissioned years later due to an incident and Cassidy reluctantly searches for new direction. Fast-forward to present day Kuwait. Lyn and Bob find themselves in trouble with locals and Bob becomes a padowan student of psychic combat on a sandy, existential co-journey; Lyn, seeking closure on his past and Bob, seeking new life after personal tragedy.
The satirical nature of this dark comedy may be lost on some viewers. I found the humor very enjoyable and the story was unique and quite thought provoking. The characters were fun, quirky and well cast with the likes of: Kevin Spacey (American Beauty), Stephen Root (Office Space, News Radio), Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) and Stephen “Stonewall Jackson” Lang (Gods and Generals). This is also another good, not great, turn for director/producer, Grant Heslov (actor/producer, Leatherheads).
A farcical twist on facts, this movie left me wondering how deep the US government actually delved into the world of psychic warfare. It does feel a bit Coen Brothers-ish but there’s enough freshness for the film to stand on its own merit. It made me laugh more than Burn After Reading so I give it a jovial 3 out of 5 babbles!