Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Not so long ago in this galaxy, the US Army ran a short-lived program to use alternative methods to train psychic soldiers known as "Jedi warriors" after the Star Wars films.  The program was headed by a man named Bill (Jeff Bridges, the 2009 role that didn't win him an Oscar) who traveled around California picking up various New Age techniques.  The goal was that these Jedi warriors could be used to peaceably solve situations.  Bill brought into the fold young soldiers like Len (George Clooney) and trained them to use their minds to find people in distant lands, become invisible, and walk through walls.  (These were only moderately successful.)  It was when the program brought in Larry (Kevin Spacey) that things took a turn for the worst.  Larry wanted to turn the Jedi to the dark side by using their powers offensively.  As the title suggests, they could stop the beating heart of a goat simply by staring at it.

This is what a young reporter named Bob (Ewan McGregor) uncovers in 2003 in Iraq.  Back in his native Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bob encountered a former member of the program, who seems like a crackpot.  It isn't until after Bob finds out his wife is cheating on him and he signs up to report on the war in Iraq that Bob runs into Len and decides to go with him into Iraq for a secret mission.

The mission leads them to several dangerous situations, including criminals, terrorists, and bumbling American security contractors.  Ultimately Bob grows as a person while uncovering his true purpose in life.

How much of the Jedi program is bunk is left up to you to decide.  Certainly in the Iraq scenes most of their "powers" seem like pure crap.  In earlier scenes taking place in the early 80s, Len seemingly has the ability to find a missing person in Italy from a couch in America and to stop a goat's heart.  But did he really?  Who knows.

Naturally this movie isn't as well made as the Oscar-winning Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker."  It takes a more darkly humorous slant of things, especially when Len and Bob are picked up by the security contractors.  Seeing them in action it's no surprise that so many Iraqis turned against American forces there.  The movie wasn't quite as funny as I thought it would be from the previews, but it wasn't terrible either.

What I think it could have used was to be a little bit longer than its 90 minute running time.  That way it could have explored the subjects and characters a bit more fully.  As it is, most of the movie is spent just getting all of the characters together in the same room.  By the time that's done, there was very little time for them to do much.

This is the second movie I've seen on remote viewing.  The first was a thriller from a few years ago called "Suspect Zero" starring Ben Kingsley and Aaron Eckhart.  That focused simply on the remote viewing program, where a "psychic" would see and draw a distant scene.  If you think this is pure imagination you're wrong.  I remember seeing a special on TV about this on Nat Geo or History or TLC or one of those channels about this.  It was pretty interesting when the reporter actually tested one of the "psychics" and he passed the test.

In a deleted scene for this movie, Bill teaches his men the martial art aikido.  This actually happened.  Years ago on a dare I bought a book called "In Search of the Warrior Spirit" that described a similar army program to train soldiers in aikido and other martial arts in the late 80s.  The program was abandoned, but as you can see, there is definitely some truth to this stuff.

Overall, this isn't bad for a rental, especially if you're interested in the paranormal.

BTW, do you suppose they cast Ewan McGregor purely for the ironic value of having the guy who played Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels in a movie about "Jedi Warriors?"

That is all.

My score:  62/100 (2.5 stars)

Metacritic score:  54/100 (2 stars)

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