There have been numerous serious movies made over the last few years about the Iraq war, many of which have not been very good (with at least one exception being The Hurt Locker released earlier this year). The Men Who Stare at Goats takes a satirical approach to the situation instead and does so quite successfully.

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a down on his luck reporter looking for a story that will put him back in the good graces of the wife that just left him. His early lead is on a secret government project that sought to harness the power of psychics for peaceful resolutions to war. Although Bob’s contact sounded somewhat outside of reality, he did reveal the name of the “Jedi project’s” top operative: Lyn Cassady. Having hit a dead end, Bob goes to Iraq in the hopes of displaying the courage of a war correspondent. Stuck in Kuwait awaiting approval, Bob strikes up a conversation with a stranger who turns out to be Cassady (George Clooney). The two embark on a strange adventure while Cassady reveals how the “Jedi warriors” were trained and his real purpose for his trip to Iraq.

The movie opens with: “More of this is true than you would believe.” The fun is in deciding which elements are truths versus fiction. The title comes from an experiment in which a psychic was told to concentrate on a goat in an attempt to stop its heart. The army slogan “Be all you can be” was given a whole new meaning the moment these super soldiers were recruited for the top secret project.

The strong male cast consists of McGregor, Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. McGregor shows his usual enthusiasm at this new world he is uncovering; his disbelief is quickly replaced by an eager desire to learn the methods of the psychic army. Clooney takes on another peculiar character with Cassady, a man who steadfastly believes in his abilities, which makes him appear slightly crazy most of the time. Spacey is a play by the rules type of soldier that joins a unit that doesn’t have rules, creating tension in the once happy hippie ranks. Bridges is the commanding officer within Project Jedi. He was assigned to explore methods of meditation and the power of the mind, returning a hippie ready for non-combative engagement.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is an offbeat comedy about the side of the war we really didn’t know about. The “New Earth Army Manual” is a bizarre set of instructions that makes references to both Jesus and Disney; and the subliminal message advising soldiers not to use their weapons while intoxicated is hidden in the song “Wishin’ and Hopin’.” This is a movie about the war that is sure to get audiences thinking, but in a totally different way.

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