The Men Who Stare At Goats
Time/place: 2:20 showing at Ocean Ranch 7 (w/Tex)
I saw the trailer for this move some time ago and didn’t pay it too much attention. It looked fun, so I figured I’d give it a whirl when it came out. Even if it wasn’t my cup o’tea, I’d still be able to enjoy the cast – I love all of those guys. George Clooney, for me, is always at his best when his character’s a little crazy. Same goes for his pal, Brad Pitt, actually.. but he’s not in this one. I went in with mediocre expectations, but I left with a kick in my step.
This movie is a boat with satire and symbolism for sails. Especially symbolism. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously in general, but it doesn’t brush off the heavier moments or, more importantly, its message either. For me, it found a great sweet spot – for those who “got it,” The Men Who Stare At Goats is a great little picture that entertains and has something to say. At first some of the ideas and references come across as straight humor – a sly innuendo to an actor’s previous role here, a playful jab at military there, but by the movie’s conclusion, all of these once very far-out-there ideas come together in smile-inducing “ah-HA” ways, and these symbolic sails pull this little movie into being something great.
The Men Who Stare At Goats is a story of personal growth in the midst of being about something larger – and just as important. Both of these story ideas work well together to make a fun, engaging movie, and when these two ideas finally begin to merge, it becomes all the better!
Warning: There be spoilers below…
I had zero clue what this movie would be like. Would it be a satire on government (as it’s still apparently popular to ride the G.W. Bush administration)? Would it be just some crazy comedy? I had no clue, so I took the chance of time invested, and I ended up loving it… as I mentioned above. It’s both. This isn’t a laugh-a-minute joke festival, though. Even a tiny flashback that lets the audience know why George Clooney’s character is at first apprehensive to dance, while funny, is also dealing with something deep. That’s what made the movie so great. It used humor to point out absurdities about the military or people in general, but also, at times, just to be hilarious. At first, I thought the joke about using the term Jedi in a scene between Ewan McGregor and Clooney would be a one-off thing (the reference obviously alluding to the Star Wars prequels), but it continued. Ha ha? It never felt forced, though, and it made the audience chuckle every time. As the story progressed, and the entire concept of the Star Wars ideaology followed through as the meat and potatoes of the whole story, I realized it was a dash of genius. The story sets us up, in many ways, for a light-hearted, fun little comedy (and it is), but these jokes continue on and mature into what I eventually understood was the whole point of the movie. I had to look at the script to reference something before I wrote this, and I caught a couple of scenes that were different from the movie. I’m almost tempted to read it through, just to see what other clever ideas there were. The director, too, I feel really nailed the atmosphere right. There was a lightness to the movie, and it moved quickly as a comedy should, but he never let it fall flat on the drama.
And now, George Clooney. Oh, George. Women may still swoon over the guy, but I love him, too. He reminds me a great deal of Carey Grant – and my favorite Carey Grant is of the screwball variety. I just had to mention this, again, because while not a still from the movie, the picture below is exactly what I’m talking about…
The rest of the fellas, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Bridges (along with a handful of great bit parts from other guys I love) all did fantastic as usual. Jeff Bridges, especially. I’d follow that guy anywhere :).
As you may very well know, I’m big on endings. A movie’s fate rests on it, and The Men Who Stare At Goats didn’t let me down. In the final few minutes, as the boys free the tortured prisoners (both human and goat), make an escape, and leading into Ewan McGregor’s epilogue, the entire purpose of this movie really comes into focus. It’s always there, so this isn’t a case of waiting until the last minute, but as I said – a movie’s ending can completely alter the rest of the story. When McGregor stands and runs towards the wall, while a fantastic and rousing narration of his own plays over, I smiled. It could have ended with a cut to black, as it actually does in the script, followed by a fantastic song choice “Break On Through” by The Doors, which still leaves nothing to the imagination as to whether or not he makes it. It could have ended with his running into the wall and not making it through, but as he smiles and laughs with blood on his face. The movie, though, ended in my favorite fashion. While the final line and set-up are pretty much the same as in the script, in the final movie we see him run through. I wanted that. I wanted to see him run through that wall, after finally understanding the Dark Side, after coming to terms with his personal struggles. It’s a call for all of us, both in terms of government, military, and in our own lives. Cynics may say otherwise, but I wanted to see it happen, to see him succeed and lead the way because as the final line says, “Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.”