"George Clooney is an astoundingly busy man, with three films at this year’s festival.  What’s incredible though is the consistency of his performances"


Jon Ronson’s best-selling non-fiction book, The Men Who Stare At Goats, was a bizarre and frighteningly true account of a secret section of the US Military dedicated to psy-ops – psychic soldiers.  The film of the same name is a fictionalised comedy which features strong performances from George Clooney and Jeff Bridges.

Struggling reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is in desperate need of a story.  While looking for a scoop in Iraq, he stumbles across Lyn Cassidy (Clooney) who claims that he was part of a secret initiative by the US government to create super soldiers, of whom he was their number one agent.  He claims to be able to read people’s thoughts, dissipate cloud formations and run through walls all with the power of this mind.

Now reactivated after 9/11, Cassidy is on a mission in track down and locate the founder of the programme Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), who has gone missing.  Intrigued by these far-fetched stories, Bob decides to tag along and after several misadventures, they find Django, now in a desperate battle with Lyn’s arch-nemesis and psychic renegade Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey).

George Clooney is an astoundingly busy man, with three films at this year’s festival.  What’s incredible though is the consistency of his performances – all three of his films are excellent (the others being the quirky animation Fantastic Mr Fox and the absolutely superb, Up In The Air).  As Lyn Cassidy he’s frequently funny, quirky and emotionally wrought in equal measure and it’s a testament to his versatility and flexibility as an actor that he manages to pull this off without apparent effort.

Jeff Bridges effectively reprises his role as The Dude from The Big Lebowski, a tree-hugging, spaced out old hippy – a role in which he excels. Kevin Spacey is great as the highly strung, jealous Hooper and shows an unexpected gift for comedy timing.  Ewan McGregor’s ropey American accent takes a while to get used to but with a few well-timed Jedi jokes and the character’s desperate earnestness, he manages to carry the film through, thereby ending his succession of extremely dubious movie choices in the last few years.

It’s a funny and engaging film with some larger than life characters and good performances (made actually quite frightening by the realisation that these are based on real people).  The ending is a little bit ill-advised but fits the suitably anarchic tone of the film so the obvious real-life consequences of a hallucinating military unit handling live weaponry can be safely ignored.

It’s an entertaining and playful dig at the absurdities of the military and well worth a watch.  I kid you not (sorry). 

The Men Who Stare At Goats is at the London Film Festival but released theatrically in cinemas November 6