Sunday, 8 November 2009

Review: The Men Who Stare At Goats

Year: 2009
Director: Grant Heslov
Screenplay: Peter Straughan
Starring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey

Synopsis is here

The Men Who Stare At Goats is a film which reminds me of one of my favorite films of 2002: Confessions of a dangerous mind. Both deal with larger than life characters who may or may not have had self-confessed influential roles with American government agencies. Confessions dealt with Game Show host/creator Chuck Barris' run ins with the C.I.A while TMWSAG tells the story of a group of Army men with Physic abilities. The entertainment isn't in how true these stories might be but how amusing the delusions can get and while TMWSAG's gets extremely goofy with it's flashback tales of the new earth army, it doesn't have the slick direction of confessions, nor does it have the narrative structure to keep the hi jinks going.

TMWSAG's strongest aspect is it's acting. Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and George Clooney (whose on a bit of a roll with me as of late) play the films lunatics so deadpan it's impossible not to smirk at the very sight of them at times. Played completely straight, the more absurd the the tale gets, the funny the characters become. It helps that the best roles are being taken by The dude, John Doe and Danny Ocean. All three are having a great time with the bizarre nature of their roles, it is only Ewan Mcgregor and his dubious American accent that struggles as the films straight man. After a brief chat with my podcast co host, we both agreed that Jason Bateman would have been just as entertaining in that role, if not more so.

It's great to have such a cast as it allows director Grant Heslov less to worry about. Although it would have been nice if he didn't allow his debut film to run out of narrative steam at the end of the film. This mostly stems from the films screenplay but by the time the film reaches it's climax it's clear that the film has gone as far as it can go with the material, which is odd because a film as batty as this should have almost limitless potential. With this being Grant Heslov's first film however, the man shows that he has more then enough talent to not only work with an ensemble cast but managing to craft an amusing film which for the most part is very funny. Heslov also knows his genre well and makes sure his film isn't bloated. The film does lose momentum but unlike many other comedies, it doesn't outstay it's welcome.

The Men Who Stares At Goats is a quirky little film with some great laugh out loud moments and a cast that manage to keep the film going during the films dry spots (mostly occurring near the end). I may not have found it as entertaining as Clooney wonderfully dry Confessions of a dangerous mind, but for a first time director being in the same ballpark as that film is nothing but a good thing in my book.

Listen to me yell about this at Geekplanetonline