I am a big George Clooney fan, so I was very happy to attend the premieres of both of his current films in these past two weeks! The first screened for the CMJ Film Festival, was the hilarious “Men Who Stare At Goats”. Based on a true story and the book by Jon Ronson,, the film co-stars Ewan Mcgregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey as members of a covert unit called “Jedis” who are part of an Army experiment to use psychic abilities and paranormal powers in warfare. The program was started by a hippy Lt named Jim Channon back in the 70’s and re-explored during the chaotic days following September 11th by the Cheney/Bush administration. Channon proclaimed that he worked, not for the US Army, but “for the planet” and designed a prototype for what he believed would be the perfect soldier. He believed that these soldiers should be “warrior monks” dedicated not to individual country’s armies an thus, self-interest, but to the planet at large. He envisioned what he called the “New Earth Army” a coalition of all of the world’s miliitaries uniting to save the planet. It’s a beautiful concept. Imagine if instead of killing each other in the name of oil and other resources we were all pooling together as nations to stop the destruction of the planet! I’d love for Jim Channon and Jennifer Muller to meet. He would love “Bench”!
The movie draws it’s hilarity mainly from the fact that the US government actually allowed him to explore his theories, funding all manner of experimentation including LSD use.. But it also makes you think, as measures which were originally conceived to illicit positive change, were later re-interpreted and utilized as means of torture at Abu-Gharib by the Cheney/Bush administration. So enjoy the laughs but think hard about the further implications. Clooney is in great slapstick comedic form harkening back to his performance in “Oh Brother, Where For Art Thou” and Jeff Bridges stands out as Bill Django, the character loosely based on Channon. Kevin Spacey is his usual hissy self (can’t believe he is supposedly straight in real Life) and Ewan is adequate, but overshadowed by Clooney and Bridges. Oddly, although they announced a Q&A, we were left without one. This was very unfortunate as the film leaves you with so many questions. Definitely wanna read the book.
Will be reviewing Clooney’s excellent performance in the marvelous Jason Reitman film, Up in the Air” in the next couple days.