A reporter meets a man who claims to have been a psychic warrior
for the U.S. military, and becomes fascinated with the man's story.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
Directed by Grant Heslov
Written by Peter Straughan
Starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges,
Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, Nick Offerman
Based on the book by Jon Ronson
The Men Who Stare at Goats is just as weird as its title suggests. It's a film that was widely panned or ignored back in 2009, but had me hooked immediately because of its impressive cast. I revisited it recently and found that not only does it hold up, it's gotten even better with age. I think Goats was ahead of its time, and had it been released ten years later, it would've been a hit. It fictionalizes the U.S. government's declassified work on developing psychic spies and super soldiers, and a lot of this film is based on real work that was done after Vietnam. If you think the government doesn't have its priorities straight now, then this film is gonna blow your mind.
Depressed reporter Bob Wilton (McGregor) is in search of a story. While on assignment in Iraq, Bob meets eccentric ex-soldier Lyn Cassady (Clooney). Lyn reveals to Bob that he was a part of a secret military project to develop psychic soldiers, led by a Lebowski-esque commanding officer named Bill Django (Bridges, because who better?). The operation was called Project Jedi, which is a great tongue-in-cheek joke at McGregor's role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels. What follows is a wild ride as Lyn and Bob traverse the Iraqi desert in search of Lyn's mission, and Bob learns everything about the so-called Jedi. It's a bonkers movie that's hilarious at every turn thanks to the cast giving it their all.
The title of the film comes from Lyn's apparent ability to stop the heart of a goat just by staring at it. We get to see this in action, and (like most of the supernatural events in the film) it's in a flashback, so there's no telling whether it was true or not. The film is told through Bob's eyes, so we never know if Lyn was full of shit, crazy, or really a Jedi. That's the beauty of this film. It's a smart satire of some of the military's wackier secret projects, and it's all done with a Coen-like flair.