Directed by Grant Heslov
The Men Who Stare At Goats
When the title of a film is the best and almost the only witty line in the film, as in “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” you can be pretty sure the film is a disaster, and in this case – even with an all-star cast of George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey – you’d be right.
I’m getting tired of saying the obvious, but “The Men Who Stare At Goats” needed about half a dozen more rewrites and a real director. Grant Heslov, who directed this, is a producer by trade, and I can tell you that producers cannot remake themselves into directors even though they think directing is just too simple for words. The director’s job is, first, to make the script into a coherent whole, second, to bring out the best in his or her actors, and third, to shoot each scene so as to get the point of it across, whether dramatic or comic, as it is in this film. Mr. Heslov fails every one of those tests.
The burden of the story is that some years back the American army instituted what was called a psychic army – an army that would use psychic powers to overwhelm an enemy – using things like walking through walls, or even, yes, staring at goats until they keeled over and died, I would say of boredom. It all comes from a British journalist’s 2004 book about this supposed secret work. George Clooney is a veteran of this army, which was put together under Jeff Bridges, and he and journalist Ewan McGregor are on their way into Iraq at the time of George W. Bush’s invasion. Why that should be funny I can’t say, because right away they are kidnapped and imprisoned, then released by other Americans since Clooney’s magic doesn’t seem to work to get them out.
Everything goes downhill from there, including a scene that in light of what happened last week seems too ghoulish for words, when a naked soldier at an Army base in the United States runs naked onto the parade ground and begins shooting at his fellow soldiers.