The Men Who Stare At Goats [Celluloid Hero]
The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009)
Putting together an all-star ensemble cast and creating a movie based on a true story should have led to a raging success. Instead, The Men Who Stare At Goats left me disappointed.
Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor and George Clooney are each tremendous talents, and I think if given the proper direction could be phenomenal together. Each has the ability to be comedic or serious, but in this case it feels like they couldn’t find the balance between comedy and drama. It’s as though each actor wanted to be serious enough to portray a character based on a real person and not reduce them to a cartoon, but still wanted to funny enough to keep the movie a comedy. McGregor and Clooney have the most screen time together, but the chemistry between them never gels. Most of the screentime for Bridges and Spacey is during flashbacks. By the time all four stars are on the screen at the same time, I had pretty much lost interest and was just watching as a test of willpower.
The problem with this movie is that there is no clear sense of direction whatsoever. It bounced around from goofy comedy to dark comedy to political satire, but was never able to catch stride with any of them. I feel like a straight documentary would have been more interesting. It’s true that the government was training “psychic spies”, it’s true they were interested in creating a non-violent army, it’s true they were testing on goats. It seems like creating a fictionalized “inspired by true events” version takes away from the real impact.
I did enjoy the idea that these characters found something they were able to truly believe in, and had the desire to strive for that goal with everything they had. I also enjoy the idea of killing a goat with mind bullets.
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On the Celluloid Hero scale, “The Men Who Stare At Goats” gets a 4 out of 10.
[Each week, Varacchi explores cinema from his own perspective. From indie to foreign to mainstream, he’ll watch it all. Suggestions and recommendations are welcome, leave a comment below. CLICK HERE for the Celluloid Hero archives]