The Men Who Stare at Goats

A journalist latches onto an unbelievable story in Iraq when he meets Lyn, a man of mysterious origins who reveals he was a ‘warrior monk.’

Year: 2009
Certificate: 15
Director: Grant Heslov
Starring: Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Stephen Lang, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor, Stephen Root, Robert Patrick, Nick Offerman, Rebecca Mader, Glenn Morshower, Waleed Zuaiter, Tim Griffin

Information Page:

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the American army experimented with New Age theories and the paranormal with a view to using these for military purposes. One such technique was to try and kill goats by staring at them and stopping their hearts. Another was to train ‘remote viewers’ – people that can see what’s happening elsewhere in the world without actually being there. It all sounds a bit far fetched, doesn’t it? Well, as the title card says:

“The Men Who Stare At Goats” is a fictional film but based on true events. It is loosely based on Jon Ronson’s book of the same name where he researches and interviews people about the techniques mentioned above. But what’s the film actually like?

In a nutshell, it’s actually quite good. We start the story in the present day with Bob Wilton (McGregor), a journalist, interviewing Gus, a local ‘nut-job’, who was on a radio talk-show telling people he could go anywhere in the world just by thinking about it. During the interview Gus tells Bob about psychic spies and people who were trained to kill animals just by staring at them. In a bid to try and save his marriage, Bob decides he has to start doing serious journalism and flies to Iraq as a war correspondent. Failing to actually get into Iraq, Bob accidentally bumps into a military general named Lyn (Clooney) – a name he recognises from his talks with Gus…

At this point we start delving into flashbacks, which make up a good portion of the film. It works well here as it is interspersed with the ongoing story in the present day. The flashback scenes are also narrated by Bob (and his dubious American accent). It’s in one of the flashbacks that we first meet Bill Django (Bridges) – the man who founded the LSD-fueled New Earth Army.

As the story unfolds, Bob and Lyn end up building a quirky bond and we learn more about what the New Earth Army was training people to do. While there are some funny moments, the whole film has more of an amusing weirdness to it. Narrating the story of the psychic soldiers during a road trip across Iraq works well and helps to break up the monotony of driving through a desert.

I have seen “The Men Who Stare At Goats” a number of years ago but, aside from the final scene, I couldn’t actually remember much of it other than that I enjoyed it. On a second viewing, I don’t think it was as good as I had remembered but that’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. It’s definitely one to watch if you like your quirkiness and it will leave you wondering just how much artistic license was added to Jon Ronson’s work. Well, as the title card says:

More of this is true than you would believe.

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!

About MaFt

Film and TV fan, creator of New On Netflix (UK, USA, Australia and Canada), dad of two amazing children, code geek and passionate about autism.

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