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" It’s all just hooey. Morality disguised as fact. "
— Liam Neeson, Kinsey

MRQE Top Critic

Creed II

It's all about the importance of character and the ability to face life's challenges. —Matt Anderson (review...)

Creed II

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Clooney sparkles and MacGregor sags in a film that wishes it were directed by the Coen brothers.

Silly Psychics

Psychic warriors unleash their intensity
Psychic warriors unleash their intensity

The silly title telegraphs the weirdness within. based on a nonfiction book by Jon Ronson (who also wrote Them!: Adventures with Extremists), this comedy embraces the paranoia that underlies magical thinking and inspires military spending.

The title characters are the real draw, but the film is wrapped in a mundane story of personal redemption. Reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is on the down and out. In order to emerge at the end with a new perspective he must travel through the belly of the beast. The beast, in this case, is the psi ops division of the US army and its colorful, pathetic inhabitants.

The best of these is Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), who is excellent in the role. He’s called upon to do strange things with his gaze and his intensity, and follow them up with self-deluded acts of physical comedy. He explains to Bob how he’ll use his mind to attack him, then punches him with his fist. I can’t imagine any actor selling it as well as Clooney.

Raw Materials

The worst of these is Jeff Bridges, who hippies up to portray Bill Django. He’s able to sell his transcendent philosophy up the chain of command while pursuing his own new age goals on the taxpayers’ dime. Though it may be the script and not the performance, Bridges’ broad caricature contrasts unfavorably with Clooney’s pathetic, manic obsessive.

In the middle is Kevin Spacey playing a humorless, jealous soldier, not as talented as Cassady, and willing to tattle on his colleagues if it will advance his own career.

All in all they make a good collection of personalities, but nothing ever comes of their interactions. In a Coen Brothers movie, there would be an interesting God’s-eye view of the different plot threads intertwining. But director Grant Heslov doesn’t seem to know what to do with the raw materials.


As for McGregor, he hits his American accent most of the time, but doesn’t have much entertaining to do. The script contains many jokes about Jedi (which the psi ops team call themselves), and half a dozen times, we are reminded that McGregor played an actual Jedi in another movie. A single reference would have been funnier.

There are some fun and effervescent bits of weirdness in The Men Who Stare at Goats, mostly when Clooney is dissolving clouds with his thoughts or attributing psychic powers to the world around him. But the movie doesn’t have anywhere to go. The ending offers some closure; it gratuitously lets the reporter find his center. But like all psychic research, The Men Who Stare at Goats is inconclusive and unsatisfying to all but the truest of true believers.