Saturday, November 7, 2009


By D.E.Levine

Director: Grant Heslov
Writer: Peter Straughan (screenplay) and Jon Ronson (book)
Cast: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, Waleed Zuaiter, Stephen Root, Glenn Morshower, Nick Offerman, Tim Griffin, Rebecca Madefr, Jacob Browne, Brad Grunberg et al.
Producers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Paul Lister
Executive Producers: Barbara A. Hall, James A. Holt, Alison Owen and David M. Thompson
Associate Producer: Luillo Ruiz
Original Music: Rolfe Kent
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Country of Origin:
Language: English
Genre: Comedy

This is a deadpan absurdist comedy inspired by a true story, where the usually cool George Clooney sheds his normal sophisticated character and embraces his inner clown.

As Lyn Cassady, a fictional character who belongs to a weird army unit. With tics, eyeball bulges and explosive gestures, Lyn joins the very strange unit of Bill Django and becomes a star at staring at goats so hard that bad things happen. He also practices cloud bursting.

Django is a military hippie concentrating on creating a superpower army. He intends to create a unit of soldiers with psychic abilities who can walk through walls, stare animals to death and use subliminal messages in music, hugs and peace symbols to disarm and overcome the enemy.

It's based on the true story of Colonel Jim Channon who wrote about his ideas in a 125-page report entitled "The First Earth Battalion. He had a great deal of support both financially and through the ranks, for his supernatural notions. In 2004 Jon Roston explored Channon's ideas in his book "The Men Who Stare At Goats".

The film begins with a journalist named Wilton from the Ann Arbor newspaper (ironically Ann Arbor's newspaper has just folded). When the newspaperman meets a man who relates he was a member of the New Earth Army, a super secret unit of paranormals being trained to spy from afar, penetrate enemy lines in spirit instead of body, and kill just by staring, he becomes interested enough to follow the story.

Flying to Kuwait in 2002, Wilton hooks up with Cassady, who has the reputation of being the best of the paranormal unit, and crosses into the war zone.

By pumping Cassady for information, Wilton learns that 20 years earlier he was being trained to be a Jedi warrior. There are flashbacks between 20 years before and the training that went on in the unit, and the present with the two men in the war zone.

Kevin Spacey plays Hooker, who hates Cassady 20 years before, and manages to get Django dishonorably discharged.

Flash forward to the present and Wilton and Cassady wind up at the training ground for the paranormal unit which is now under Hooper's command and where Django has been hired as a consultant.

While not the best comedy, the film is funny and the actors are extremely good. Because the story is based on real events, the question is raised about whether a unit of this type exists today and whether there are men and women from our current military being trained as psychic soldiers.