Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"The Men Who Stare at Goats" (2009)

This picture is a disappointment on so many levels. Mostly there is the fact that it simply isn’t a good story. The acting is fine, and the direction works, but the plot is aimless and underdeveloped. That is surprising, because the true stories upon which this film is based are absolutely engaging.

This tries to be (and could have been a great) story of the tragedy of belief, when that belief is misplaced. The real background for the story here told is almost unbelievable. That the US military would pay a man to spend years submerging himself in a New Age movement fueled by drugs, and then consider his resulting paradigm shift. That Special Forces would spend extended training trying to kill animals with their minds. That the head of military intelligence would literally believe that he could and try repeatedly to run through walls. All of that really happened.

How can you start with such a compelling and disturbing source material and end up with an inconsequential film like this? In Hollywood’s case, one gets the feeling that they don’t see a cautionary tale here, but rather an inspirational one. If they ever make a movie based on Ronson’s “The Psychopath Test,” one hopes they hire a different screenwriter.

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