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Movie Review

The Men Who Stare at Goats

MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug content and brief nudity.

Reviewed by: Katie Thomas

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Dark-Comedy Drama
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 6, 2009 (wide—2,200+ theaters)
DVD: March 23, 2010
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Overture Films

What is the significance of the New Age Movement? Answer

New Age movement

Goats in the Bible

Featuring: George Clooney (as Lyn Cassady), Ewan McGregor (Bob Wilton), Jeff Bridges (Bill Django), Kevin Spacey (Larry Hooper), Robert Patrick, Stephen Root, Stephen Lang, Nick Offerman, Glenn Morshower, Rebecca Mader, Terry Serpico, Merik Tadros, Robert Curtis Brown, Matt Newton, Tim Griffin, Brad Grunberg, Waleed Zuaiter, Hrach Titizian, Joelle ten Damme, Arron Shiver, Steve Witting, Billy Lockwood, Wiley M. Pickett, Robert Farrior, Alexandra Krizman, Brian Tester, William Sterchi, McCaleb Burnett, John McTasney, Michael-David Aragon, Shafik N. Bahou, Paul J. Porter, A.J. Tannen, Frank Powers, Steven R. Byrd, Robert Anthony Brass, Burly Cain, Drew Seltzer, Reginald Huc, Morse Bicknell, Jacob Browne, Samuel Ray Gates, JJ Raschel, Kevin Christopher Brown, Rafael Christian, Michael Clark, Ronald Hamilton, Brent Lambert, Donn Lamkin, Gregory Leiker, Carlton Liggins, John Macho, J.D. Marmion, William E. Marshall, Brian Reece, Fawad Siddiqui
Director: Grant Heslov
Producer: BBC Films, Smoke House, Westgate Film Services, Winchester Capital Partners, George Clooney, Barbara A. Hall, Grant Heslov, James A. Holt, Paul Lister, Alison Owen, Luillo Ruiz, David M. Thompson
Distributor: Overture Films

“No goats. No glory.”

“The Men Who Stare At Goats” is a fast, funny ride to nowhere with director Grant Heslov (“Leatherheads”) and Jon Ronson, author of its non-fiction inspiration, at the wheel.

The story is very difficult to summarize without giving everything away, because it is a very A + B + C sort of plot, without any twists. We are introduced to starving reporter Bob Wilton (played by Ewan McGregor) just before he has a chance meeting with Lyn Cassidy (played by Academy Award winner George Clooney). Lyn claims to have been involved in an experimental branch of the U.S. army. They were called the “New Earth Army”, and made up of men who claimed to possess psychic abilities out to change the way wars are fought. Seeing this as his next big story, Bob follows Lyn on his mission to locate the program’s founder Bill Django (played by Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges) who has gone missing. Along the way Lyn and Bob run into trouble of sorts, and Lyn tells Bob all of the program’s history (through flashbacks).

The film claims to be based on true events, the authenticity of which I can neither confirm nor deny, but I got the feeling that the makers almost didn’t want the audience to believe it—or perhaps made the entire adventure so far-fetched that one might have to go research it for themselves. Whatever the case, I suppose I’d like to believe Hollywood wasn’t lying to us this time.

The actors seemed to have a lot of fun with this film, and it showed on screen. Each gave a unique and memorable performance. There were many, many funny moments throughout the entire film. The screenwriter, Peter Straughan, did an excellent job creating witty dialogue, and an even better monologue for Bob, who narrates. Most of his narration is filled with colorful similes and metaphors that sound like a good short story. Unfortunately, they aare also riddled with profanity. At least 25 uses of the f-word, and another 20 or so others, especially g-damn and the s-word.

Nudity also presented itself as an issue. Though all moments are brief, they are still prevalent. There are two shots of several people, men and women together, sitting nude in hot tubs. Several women’s breasts are exposed. Two scenes feature men’s buttocks, one referring to his scrotum.

Violence is present, but not unbearable. Since the film is centered around an army branch, guns were present and some battle sequences depicted. The most memorable is a scene in which a naked officer opens fire on a platoon. The use and even encouragement of LSD is a factor, considering part of the film takes place during the Vietnam War. The illegal drug is used in correlation with psychic experiments, laced in food, and even used as a symbol of liberation at the crescendo.

As a Christian, I would not recommend this film for a Christian audience, especially not children. The useless cursing and depiction of drug usage was far too much and ruined what had the potential to be the great dark-comedy of the year. While I laughed most of the time and was able to appreciate the humor and downright absurdity of the situation, the senseless language proved to be too much.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—Though this film has some language and a very brief nude scene, my wife and I found the movie very entertaining and one of the better ones we’ve seen this year. The nudity is so brief that if you blinked you would miss it and wasn’t in the context of a sexual experience but a bunch of hippies in a hot tub. I wouldn’t recommend this film for younger audience but any mature adult will enjoy it if you like satire and a little darker comedy. The language is easier to handle when you see it in the context of the military, as that is the way a lot of men talk. I say, go see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—M Jordan, age 62 (USA)
Positive—Surprising. This is probably, in all honesty, the best comedy of the year. It’s subtle; it refuses to inundate you with gross-out humor or non-stop vulgarity, something a little too prevalent in the genre today. It’s just good ol' fashion realist humor. Something is odd, strikes you as such, and it causes a reaction. A chuckle. A smile. A jolly laugh. Never forced. Just odd. As an added bonus, a lotta jabs are made at ol' Fort Bragg… and the Army in general. This screwball comedy is rated “R” for drug content, brief nudity, and a few curse words. Please note, “Goats” is pretty tame for its rating. The language is kept to the minimum, and the nudity is infrequent and mostly ribald. Drugs are discussed and its effects are depicted on more than one occasion. The saturated violence the other commentator is raving about just isn’t there; I’m not sure he and I watched the same film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Mega Tron, age 23 (USA)


Negative—The movie starts out like it’s going to go some where. It dwindles out to being weak all the way to the end. It’s that fine line between humor and being serious which gets lost between scenes. If you like LSD humor… drugs and stupidity… I found it very dull, weak and boring. Sure there are chuckles, But, eh. Another movie making fun of our troops, country, and embracing those that fight against USA.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Louise, age 50
Negative—“The Men Who Stares at Goats” is a movie that is said to be true but the way the director portrayed the movie made it look both fake and crazy. The story followed a reporter Bob Wilton (played by Ewen McGregor. He tries to find a story and he meets a psychic who was a guest on a radio talk show. This psychic then leads him to Lyn Cassady (played by George Clooney). Lyn then tells the reporter that he was part of a special military unit. The group used psychic powers to read the enemies’ thoughts, pass through walls, and even stop animals’ hearts.

Lyn is on a mission assigned by Bill Django (played by Jeff Bridges) to go somewhere in Iraq and brings Bob along for a story. Along the way they run into trouble and along the way Lyn tells Bill about things they did in his unit when he was younger, things turn out to fall apart for Lyn and asks Bill to finish the mission.

I would not recommend seeing this movie with young children, the movie had lots of profanity and a few that used the Lord’s name in vain. There was a lot of usage of LSD in the movie, tobacco usage, a scene of nudity, and a lot of violence. I was shocked with all the LSD use and how it made people act. There was also a scene of Lyn praising Mother Earth that is seen as putting idols before God and that is talked a lot about NOT doing in the bible. The praising of Mother Earth was a big part of the Baal worship in the bible and we have seen where that led them. God wants no other idols in front of him.

My bottom line is if you want to see this movie be prepared for profanity, violence and drug usage because it happens a lot.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—David Hopkins, age 24 (USA)
Negative—My husband and I saw this film on a lark since it seemed the only thing in the theater at the time that wasn’t full of violence. And it’s true it’s not a violent movie despite the storyline centering around the military. The movie has an all-star cast so we thought it’d be good but there isn’t much of a storyline or a plot. If I had to find a point, it can be thought of as a satirical look at war and the military but it’s all pretty empty. There are some particularly disturbing moments of suicide and killing at a military base that is all to reminiscent of recent headlines. Despite laughing a few times, both my husband and I do not recommend this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—J Sargent, age 36 (USA)