The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009/Anchor Bay Blu-ray + DVD)
B-/C+ Sound: B/C+ Extras: C- Film: C-
have a story that is so wild and outrageous, you can tell it seriously or do it
as a satire. The more serious the
implications of the subject matter, the harder it is to tell the story either
way and make the story work.
Annihilation with nuclear arms gave us Fail Safe and Dr.
Strangelove at the same time, both good films, but it is the latter Kubrick
satire that really registered and has been imitated since. The
Men Who Stare At Goats (2009) is based on a book about how the U.S. military
secretly set up a secret division to explore new mental warfare.
Earth Army would use meditation, ESP, telekinesis, telepathy and other New Age
ideas the military traditionally rejected as a way to battle anyone they wanted
to. This included experiments where its
soldiers would concentrate their mental energies on animals (i.e., the title of
the film) to see if they could kill them by thinking them to death. Ewan McGregor plays a reporter who stumbles
onto the story and investigates it any way he can. George Clooney is an involved party who may
know more than he is saying and the closer they get to the story, the more likely
they (or at least our reporter) may not survive it.
cast also includes Jeff Bridges in his glory, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang and
Robert Patrick and this would seem like a good idea for a film and story,
especially since some to all of this occurred, but it collapses early on and
never recovers. Why? Peter Straughan’s screenplay adaptation of
the Jon Ronson book is all over the place and Director Grant Heslov cannot find
a way to make the story work either, so we get a stream of usually unfunny
jokes, quirky performances and offbeat situations that never add up, mean only
when the writer or director understand them to mean and gets so bogged down in
its fleeting smugness that it beings down the whole film.
the movement used by the government to wage war is from the 1960s, the script
is obsessed with Star Wars, which in
so many ways is the end of the period and opposite of it. McGregor being in the sequel trilogy further
renders any Jedi references even more obnoxious and is one of many examples of
how far the film strays from its story.
I never laughed once, even when actors I liked showed up. Just being off the wall does not make a film
a satire. It has to add up and make
sense on some level. The Men Who Stare At Goats is one of
the year’s biggest disappointments.
2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision,
but the transfer here is softer than it should be for that format, especially
from a film lensed by the great Director of Photography Robert Elswit (Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood) so either the Digital Internegative was
overmanipulated and/or there is a slight issue with the way the transfer was
done here. The anamorphically enhanced DVD
version is poorer and has the same flaws and then some, so the Blu-ray is
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mix works best when playing back music or in the
action sequences, though dialogue and other audio elements are well-recorded,
the overall soundfield is the default highlight of both versions of the
film. I just thought it could have been
better too. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on
the DVD is not bad for that older format, but cannot match the consistency,
richness and fullness of the DTS. Rolfe Kent’s score is
not bad, though.
both formats include two feature-length audio commentary tracks (one with
Heslov, one with Ronson), Deleted Scenes, Character Bios, and two making of
featurettes: Goats Declassified and Project “Hollywood”, while the Blu-ray adds a
Digital Copy of the film for PC and PC portable devices.
- Nicholas Sheffo