Movie Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Another fun and clever blow to the MIC __ 8/10

The Men Who Stare at GoatsLarry Hooper: [from trailer] Lieutenant Colonel Django used funds from the project’s black budget to procure prostitutes…
Bill Django: That’s a lie!
Larry Hooper: …and to get drugs for himself and his men.
Bill Django: That… well, the hooker thing is definitely a lie.

… by George Clooney. As with other classic anti-war or anti-system movies that Clooney executive produces and acts in—Syriana, Michael Clayton, Goats exposes generally unknown facts about the government/Wall Street alliance that have a destructive effect on most humans. But Goats, while actually dealing with some of the most insidious antihuman technologies employed by the CIA under cover of war, does a magnificent job of airing out the subject with benevolence and humor.

It’s no surprise that these films and others he has had a high-level hand in tend to not break attendance records at your local Cineplex. Goats only measures 6.5 on IMDb, which seems reasonable at first glance. But there’s a lot of subtlety to this movie; it’s easy to dismiss it for the quirkiness factor: Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) is a graduate of a special New Earth Army program, and young-journalist-looking-for-courage Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) runs into Lyn outside Iraq just after the war starts.

Lyn regales Bob of the background of this special program created by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) following the Vietnam War. Django recovered from what looked like a critical injury in the field. Recalling the unique circumstances of that day, he came to the conclusion that the psychological aspects of war were most important. Django, with approval of military intelligence, explored the new age consciousness of the times, then came back to form an elite cadre of soldiers who would use paranormal mental powers to—from his perspective—help humanity get beyond war.

A large part of the dialog between Lyn and Bob, as they’re winding their way through the desert scenery of Iraq, consists of this background, this flashback to the program, which continued to gain respect and funding from the CIA. Like any such program in a military bureaucracy, the handful of idealists are eventually overwhelmed by legions of manipulators. In the New Earth Army of Bill Django, two recruits showed the powers of a Jedi Warrior: Lyn Cassady, the idealist, and Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), the manipulator.

Hooper exemplifies the true CIA dark side that did prevail in these esoteric waters of unusual capabilities—which include the ability to kill animals (and presumably humans) by staring at them… but mainly serve as a pretext for human rights abuses. Many of these secret systems, all quite real, are alluded to in the movie: esp. MK ULTRA mind control and human research programs. The majority of these programs, such as creation of “zombies” who act like Manchurian Candidates to execute orders without their own awareness, are designed to further the power and control of those who secretly initiate and maintain the programs. Duh!

Totally contrary to the spirit of Bill Django.

Django felt Lyn Cassady was the personification of the noble Jedi Warrior who would use his powers for good. Accordingly, Django bestowed all the accolades on Lyn and ignored the psychically mediocre Larry Hooper. Like all small-minded men, Hooper responded by acquiring political power and ousting the idealists… especially seeing to it that Lyn and Bill were undermined and drummed out. Spacey plays a fine role as villain.

And that catches us up to the plot, or denouement, of the movie.

Which of course, I won’t spoil.

What distinguishes Goats from most other antiwar and anti-system movies is its coming at it in the form of comic jabs. The dialog and misadventures of Wilton and Cassady carry us along quite disarmingly and amusingly. It’s as if Clooney found a project where he could use an indirect strategy of exposure and ridicule to accustom audiences to the hard facts of high-level treachery of the worst kind. And it is an entertaining romp with a cerebral and cause-oriented political edge.

Bob Wilton: So what do you use to remote view?
Lyn Cassady: I drink. And I find classic rock helps.
Bob Wilton: Any music in particular?
Lyn Cassady: Boston. Boston usually works.

Let me mention the acting presence of Jeff Bridges here. His role is pivotal in the movie, because he’s the original “Jedi Warrior” whom idealists like Lyn (and, yes, the Ewan McGregor character Wilton, who supplies the narration) emulate and idolize. Bridges is great. It’s like his third movie of 2009, actually fourth: The Open Road, A Dog Year, this one, and Crazy Heart, for which he won the Oscar for best actor. The man is on a roll. Is there a single actor who makes his mark in Hollywood as a quirky idealist more so than Jeff Bridges?! (And don’t forget the quintessential The Big Lebowski.)

Just wanted to get that out there. Good movie. It’s as if the humor penetrates the normal limbic system barriers to critical thinking. Good lesson there for all of us working to restore the Republic and reclaim humankind from the Dominators.

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