Monday, 9 November 2009

The Men Who Stare At Goats (15)

Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, George Clooney, Ewan McGregor; with such a stellar cast, The Men Who Stare At Goats delivers a level of star power greatly misaligned with its rather slight budget. Unfortunately whilst the actors impress, the film fails to fire on all cylinders, resulting in an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable experience.

As a genre, The Men Who Stare is hard to pin down. Part indie comedy, part biography, the film falls somewhere in between, mixed with a healthy dose of political satire which, in the recent gamut of anti-war propaganda, appears rather ineffectual by comparison. The premise itself is deliciously tantalising and does offer a few decent laughs, but the stubborn allegiance to the source material means that we are never offered the comedy set-pieces one would expect as cast and crew sit deliberately along the mainstream sidelines. Instead of side-splitting comedy and crazy antics we are left with a few nice moments and an awful lot of waffle.

The first act is enjoyable enough but as the number of flashbacks increase one can’t help but feel that the entire feature is little more than a trailer for the real film. In fact, towards the finale it becomes apparent that the film has failed to deliver on providing a story at all, despite the promise of one throughout McGregor’s narrated back story and set up. The cast is generally strong (although McGregor’s American accent is, as in Robots (2005) rather forced) but Bridges and Spacey are woefully underused and this highlights yet another failure of the film to take advantage of the tools at its disposal.

Although in style The Men Who Stare could be mistaken for a Coen film, albeit with a more high-concept approach, it lacks the duos inclination for strong characterisation and as such provides only pale imitations of the actors greatest moments; Jeff Bridges is the Dude, George Clooney the paranoid agent from Burn After Reading (2008), while the intertextual significance of Ewan McGregor as a Jedi warrior is blatantly apparent. Funny then, but for a more pleasurable comedy experience, try the Coens instead.


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