The Full List of Big Thoughts From A Small Mind's 2009 Reviews.
This review was originally posted in my 2009 Toronto Film Festival Recap. The review has been re-posted as the film will finally be released in select cinemas tomorrow.
The Men Who Stare At Goats
After a chance encounter with Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney), journalist Bob Wilton (Ewen McGregor) realizes that he might have come across the juiciest story of his career. Lyn claims to be part of a special military group of “super-soldiers” trained in the art of mental warfare. They can become invisible, located hidden items, and even make a goat’s heart stop beating through mere thought. Yet after traveling across the Iraq dessert, in search of Lyn’s former unit captain Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), Bob begins to wonder if Lyn’s tales are actually more fiction than fact.
Grant Heslov’s latest feature evoked mixed reactions out of me at various points in the film. There are times when the writing in The Men Who Stare At Goats is truly brilliant. During these moments the dialogue is fast paced and the film hits all the right comedic notes. Unfortunately there are also times when it becomes painfully obvious that there is really no substance to the picture at all. Clearly they had a great concept but just could muster enough material to sustain a whole movie.
Many people I spoke with, who loved The Men Who Stare At Goats, cited the Coen Brothers’ comedies as one of the reasons they enjoyed the film so much. Whereas this was one of the major reasons I found the film disappointing. To me, The Men Who Stare At Goats plays more like a poor man’s Coen Brothers flick. Even Jeff Bridges seems to be phoning in his old performance from The Big Lebowski for this film. Also, several of the running gags, most notably the Jedi and other pop culture references, become stale rather quickly due to the constant repetition.
The overall casting is great and Heslov allow his actors to really let loose in their roles. Unfortunately Heslov needed to rein in the story much more than he does, especially in regards to the ridiculous third act. Again, there are some truly funny segments that almost warrant a mild recommendation for those scenes alone. Yet on the whole, despite the potential it displayed, The Men Who Stare At Goats was ultimately more disappointing than anything else.