The Men Who Stare at Goats–Movie Review

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3.5 StarsEwan McGregor

“More of this is true than you would believe.”

The Men Who Stare at Goats is an offbeat comedy that gains a certain edginess by making us wonder how much of it is based on fact. I doubt that there is much truth in it, but it is still hilarious.

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), a down-and-out reporter, is waiting in Kuwait in 2002, hoping to get an “embedded” position with a U.S. military unit. He meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a hard-bitten ex-soldier who claims to be a “Jedi Warrior”, trained in paranormal fighting techniques in a top-secret U.S. Army project. Ignoring the telltale signs that Cassady may be totally nuts, Wilton agrees to accompany him on a secret mission into Iraq.

During the trip we gradually learn the story of how back in the late 1970s and early 80s, the Pentagon, worried about Soviet psychic research programs, allowed the charismatic Lt. Colonel Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) to form a top-secret unit called the “New Earth Army”, in which soldiers were trained to be “warrior monks” using an eclectic mix of New Age techniques. However the experiment had tragic results due to machinations of a malicious recruit named Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey).

The movie claims to be a work of fiction based on a non-fiction book. The book is apparently totally serious but the movie takes a whimsical approach to the question of whether the program ever existed, let alone whether the soldier ever developed deadly psychic powers.