Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats

Posted on November 12, 2009


The Men Who Stare at Goats is a movie starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor. I was intrigued because it seemed to offer a comedic take the US Government’s old MK Ultra program.


Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) gets divorced on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. Feeling lost, he decides to go to Iraq as a journalist and try to find a big story, and a big adventure. Once there, he stumbles into Lyn Cassady (George Clooney). Bob knows Lyn’s name because of an interview he did before his divorce with a man who claimed to have been a psychic warrior in the Army. Lyn is headed into Iraq as a contractor, and Bob argues his way into going along. He wants to find a big story, and quickly realizes that his story, and his adventure, are wrapped up with Lyn.


The story is pretty tired – it’s about a young man who’s always defined himself by how others think of him, and who in the course of the movie’s events finds an independent identity. The good news is, that frees you up to watch the performances, which are uniformly good. Kevin Spacey plays a devious villain with relish. Jeff Bridges plays a career Army officer turned shaman, which is a bit like getting R. Lee Ermey to play The Dude. The movie briefly references MK Ultra in passing, but its New Earth Army is clearly its own conceit. It’s less a wacky comedy than it is a wistful sort of bildungsroman (technically a künstlerroman).

Overall, I liked it, which is unusual for me when the movie and its marketing campaign are so different.

Posted in: Movies