Monday, November 9, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

"It's a little bit funny, yes."

A reporter in search of a story he can use to validate himself stumbles across a man claiming to be a member of a secret military group of mental warriors, and who is obviously less then sane. But, as he follows the man on his latest "mission", the reporter finds that the man proves stranger and stranger- and more and more interesting.

Shortly after I saw the spectacular film Good Night, and Good Luck it came to my attention that the man who co-wrote it also played the comic relief character Arpid in The Scorpion King (if you don't know why that's funny I can't explain it). It was at this point that I decided Grant Heslov was someone worth watching. And his most recent directorial release The Men Who Stare at Goats proves my claim. It also suggests that he may have a thing for unusually long titles.
With a cast of heavy hitters this movie must be a bit intimidating to anyone looking to dismiss it out of the gate. All big names are in their proven comedy elements: Bridges is the chemically altered philosopher, Spacey is the smug antagonist, and McGregor is the hilariously uninformed straight man. I've said for a while that George Clooney only has two modes: the "Cool Guy", and the "Quirky Cool Guy". With This role he shows his acting chops and stretches himself into a new realm: the "Zany Cool Guy". Along with all that sarcasm must come praise however- because it works.
We are introduced to Lyn Cassidy (Clooney) and immediately let in on the secret that he might be off his rocker. As the movie progresses we become more and more sure of this and one more fact: what he's saying makes sense. The entire story unfolds on one lynch pin thought process: "Just because I'm crazy, doesn't mean I'm wrong." The words Cassidy uses to explain how he sees the world may sound silly, but by the end you agree that they're also accurate.
Nearly every comedic nugget in this movie comes from that dark, mysterious land called irony. You laugh because it's so odd and because it sounds just about right. At one point two sets of rival private security companies (that's mercenaries in layman's terms) have a shoot out on a crowded city street- each believing the other to be terrorists who fired first, and you laugh because it's ridiculous- and because it's uncomfortably believable. Maybe that's the term I'm looking for here. The Men Who Stare at Goats is both hilariously out there, and uncomfortably believable.
Although the talkative pair of high school girls next to me in the theater seemed to feel otherwise, this is a solid, enjoyable movie that left me chuckling. It is full of, at times Cohen-esque, humor and strangely emotional moments that go as quickly as they come. I enjoyed it for the fact that it made me laugh but thoughtfully so, and for it's resisting the urge to conclude the story with heaps of sentiment. And conversely, I hated it for getting "More than A Feeling" stuck in my head for the rest of the weekend.
And in case your wondering: Yes. I did laugh each and every time the word "Jedi" was mentioned near McGregor. And No. I'm not ashamed that it never got old to me.

Reel Deal Recommends:
Good Night, and Good Luck: Great movie directed by Clooney and co-written by Clooney and Grant Heslov.
Arlington Road: Jeff Bridges leads this mind blowing thriller that not enough people saw.
Stay: An interesting psychological drama starring Ewan "You'll Always Be Obi-Wan to Me" McGregor.
The Scorpion King: Because then you'll think it's funny too.

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