The Men Who Stare at Goats

It’s not often that even as I am watching a movie I think about how I would review it. Especially a good one. Today was one of those rare days.

The boys and I went out for a skipping-church-movie-morning and opted to (as our ticket stubs read) Stare at Goats. We knew it was a comedy and we expected a good time, given the stellar cast. We were not disappointed. Ewan MacGregor and George Clooney had the most screen time, with Clooney as the primary subject of the film, a “Jedi” psycho-spy trained by a bizarrely true offshoot of the army back in the heydays of American drug culture. Macgregor’s reporter comes across him through a series of coincidences that continue into a journey into the Iraqi desert. Along the way, we learn about both men, what they’ve had and lost, and why they are in need of a quest. I’m don’t want to mention much of the plot, because the unfolding of this story is part of the joy it brings.
I must say that the casting is perfect. Jeff Bridges is in full-on dude glory, Kevin Spacey is brilliantly evil without going too dark, and the supporting cast of men and goats bring to life a tale that is “more true than you want to believe.” Clooney and MacGregor have the sort of chemistry that makes you thankful for good writers and actors. They inhabited their characters’ oddities and humanity, while tossing off more cultural references per square inch of screen than ought to be allowed. And, just for good measure, the movie includes the best use of Boston (the band) in a soundtrack. Ever. vvThe pacing was perfect and it left me wanting more… a sure sign that there was a lot of footage left on the floor. Good editing can seem a lost art in these days of quick cuts and epic movie lengths.
A couple of moments of note…
The apologies shared between Skip (Clooney’s character) and an Iraqi man. The hospitality shown by the host and the sensitivity shown by the guest are probably what is most needed in a country that sees much more of the actions shown leading up to the exchange.
The physical transformation Bridges portrays between the first and final sightings of Bill. I suspect there was some make-up involved on the face, but his physical presence and bearing told much more of the story.
There was, as one would expect in an R-rated film, plenty of foul language, a fair bit of violence and just a touch of nudity. That said, all of that was less gratuitous than in most of the movies I’ve seen in the last couple of years.
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