Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Film Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats

by Eric Green

Clooney Needed the Coens to Make "Goats" more Biting

This film is probably Clooney's sequel to his well done and fairly popular 1999 anti-Iraq War I, "Three Kings." That film was directed by David Russell. Grant Heslov directed "Goats."

Too bad that Russell wasn't asked again to direct this war truth/satire film on the Iraq War II. In fact, it is a shame that the Coen Brothers were brought in. There is an overwhelming amount of material in this film, a film that is laced with real life facts that are too crazy to comprehend.

In short, a Midwestern reporter from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ewan McGregor leaves a failed marriage to join the army as a journalist to find his true calling. What he finds is the First Earth Battalion as created by the great actor, Jeff Bridges. Bridges is an over- the-top hippie with psychic powers that the U.S. army has enlisted to win the Iraqi war.

The book on which the film was based claimed that the key figures of this rather bizarre film are based on actual people. Given the world of Bush, Chaney and Rove nothing should surprise us.

Clooney is a disciple of Bridges. And, he enlists McGregor to conduct a major action.

Kevin Spacey is part of the action, but throws a monkey wrench into the everyday activities and goals of the Earth Battalion. He was poorly directed in the film.

The film's underlying antiwar premise is the use of contractors by the U.S. army and the goals of those contractors.

The disappointment of the film is that the direction that Russell gave in "Kings" was sorely missed in "Goats." And, the underlying humor with the seriousness of the purpose of the film is a Coen brother's specialty.

This was a missed opportunity, but given Clooney's popularity and the clear anti-war underlying theme of the film, the film ends up on the positive side.

It is an entertaining film and is worth seeing; it could have been so much better.