The Men Who Stare at Goats

This offbeat, ’80s-moustache-heavy comedy follows Ewan McGregor, a journalist hoping to be embedded with a special team of US soldiers in Iraq who practise all sorts of wacky new-age disciplines, including mind control on the titular animals, in the hopes of inventing new, less physical techniques by which to get information out of captive suspects. These “jedi,” as they’re called—a joke not lost on Ewan “Qui-gon Jin” McGregor—are lead by a hippie played, of course, by Jeff Bridges, who came to a realisation in Vietnam that many of the soldiers were so green they were actually aiming high so as to not kill anyone. Thus he decided to create the New Earth Army, which would use non-combative methods of interrogation and would be informed by Eastern philosophy and the hippy ways of peace, love and understanding. Bridges’ star pupil is played by a surprisingly tolerable George Clooney, and Kevin Spacey and Avatar’s Stephen Lang—much more bearable here than he was in James Cameron’s day-glo spectacle—round out the supporting cast. A short, strange trip, with flashes of brilliance, written and directed by Grant Heslov—the man behind Good Night and Good Luck—this has the same brand of goofy, dry humour that permeates the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading and Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! But whereas those films have some substance—not much, but some—there’s very little meat between these two slices of bread.

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