Friday, 6 November 2009

The Men Who Stares At Goats - Review

One of my favourite things about George Clooney is that he tends to never take himself or his international status too seriously. For every box office smash, he is always more than willing to lend his talents to more indie affairs. The Men Who Stares At Goats very much falls into the latter category.

Based on a book of the same title by journalist/writer Jon Ronson, the film centres around the completely surreal tale of Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) who stumbles onto the story of a lifetime when he meets a special forces operator, Lyn Cassady (Clooney). As they embark on a new mission, Lyn reveals his twenty-year involvement in a top secret, psychic military unit and shares details of their activities, each more bizarre than the last - including staring at goats in order to stop their hearts.

The performances were nothing short of excellent, though giving the array of talent in the spotlight, its not hard to see why. Unlike last month's Mr Fox, Clooney actually reminds us there is more to his acting talent than simply playing himself (not that there is really anything wrong with that mind). I imagine when the producers of this film started casting, they must have thought that no one else except McGregor could play the main role of Bob, even more so due to the amount of sly "Jedi" jokes aimed at him the entire film (yes yes the irony is astounding...). He held his own starring opposite Clooney exceptionally well reminding the audience it was just as much his film as it was Clooney's. In support, and frankly the highlights of the film were the appearances of Jeff Bridges, playing on his Dude persona from The Big Lebowski , and also with a decent shout for a best supporting actor nod at the Oscars next year Kevin Spacey with some genuinely comedic moments that lifted the piece.

Performances aside, the production value was solid as a rock, and what you come to expect from BBC Films. However you never really felt as though you were watching something unique or special compared to some of the other films that these 4 actors have indeed appeared in this year. For a film that was touted for contention at the awards circuit next year, that is something of a let down. However though the humour was luke warm at best, when it was on song it almost came across like a live action version of some of the more insane moments of The Simpsons in its golden age (especially the brief appearance of Robert Patrick). In its final third it harked back to such war film classics as M*A*S*H and Catch 22. Unfortunately though these moments are few and far between.

Final Thoughts
Not quite the disaster as some of Clooney's other indie outings such as Leatherheads or Burn After Reading however it never quite lives up to the dark satirical undertones of such under rated classics as Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind or the punchy political Good Night and Good Luck. Performances from the four main players and quite a hilarious, albeit brief, appearance from Robert Patrick makes The Men Who Stares At Goats at the very least an entertaining enough way to kill a couple of hours, but don't expect it to be listed in the "Best Of" list of any of the actors...


See this if you like...
M*A*S*H, Catch 22, Three Kings...that's all I got...

The Men Who Stares at Goats is at cinemas everywhere now.

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