So what is this film? A comedy? A war film? A biopic? A Road Movie? In a way, it’s all these things blended together in a great cocktail of filmmaking.
Our story follows Bob Wilton, played by Ewan McGregor. A down and out Journalist with no direction in his life with his wife leaving him for another man and feeling like he needs to prove it to her that he is better than her new lover. Thus, he does the most logical thing anyone does in this situation; Go to Kuwait City and wait to enter Iraq. This is where he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a former Special Forces operator for the ‘New Earth Army’, a unit formed in secret in which they would breed new ‘Jedi Soldiers’ and is going to Iraq on a mission that would spoil the movie if explained, which Wilton joins him in, but manage to both get in some hairy situations on the way.
If you are reading that and thinking ‘That’s stupid’, then you are probably the person who should go see this film straight away. Throughout all this, the film has its tongue firmly in its cheek but even then it gives you the time to let it all sink in about the fact that a lot of this stuff actually did happen.
The film is based on the true discoveries made by Jon Ronson in the book of the same name and recounts the apparent need for more ‘humane’ ways of winning wars after Vietnam turned into the quagmire it became.What is astonishing, especially to hear it from Ronson himself is not just that this whole thing was set up but also that the people involved were passionately into this subject. This is reflected in the film itself, with all the actors getting in touch with their inner ‘spirit monk’ and it reflects in the project itself.
The big four of this film, McGregor, Clooney, Bridges and Spacey, all shine in this film giving some very good performances. Ewan McGregor turns from someone willing to let the world eat him up and looking for understanding to someone who finds his understanding in the weirdest way possible. Spacey plays downright asshole yet pantomime villain style Larry Hooper and fully gets into the role. Clooney and McGregor almost have a road movie-esque relationship and it’s one of the only times I can compare anything like this to Thelma and Louise at how the personalities of both change as the movie goes but this doesn’t have the effect that film did in its conclusion. Nor should it, that’d just be silly. Jeff Bridges playing the rather crazy, hippie-like Bill Django is firmly the star of the movie and gives the audience the most laughs including a shirt ripping short sequence that would make Hulk Hogan proud to pose down with him.
Actor and first time director Grant Heslov has known George Clooney for over 30 years and their friendship is seen in the willingness for Clooney to be able to get into his role along with his production company, Smokehouse Pictures, take the project on. With that, the direction of how the scenes are balanced between emotional and comedic are very well done and more importantly, allow the movie to embrace the quite insane topic that it covers. If it was not done in this manner, the movie would not work the way it does.Props must also be given to the script, done by British screenwriter Peter Straughan, which manages to give great fodder to the acting talent along with turning what shouldn’t work into very funny comedy.
At the beginning of the film, we are told ‘Some of this is more true than you would think’. It may not be easy to tell fact from over exaggeration but, with the experience this well written and funnier than it has any right to be, you won’t care and honestly, nor should you. One of the best experiences I’ve had in the cinema this year and the only press screening I’ve ever been to where almost half the critics were applauding it after it ended. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what else will.
The Men who Stare at Goats is out on the 6th of November in both the United States and in the UK.