Published Sep 10, 2009Actor turned director Grant Heslov has crafted a wonderfully weird cinematic adaptation of journalist/author Jon Ronson's book on paranormal military training. Headed by the disclaimer "More of this is true than you would ever believe," Heslov's film turns this "so crazy it's got to be true" research into a compelling and frequently hilarious narrative.
Ewan McGregor stars as Bob Wilton (a fictionalized version of Ronson), a reporter desperate to find a lead on a fascinating story. As luck, or karma, would have it, a seed of information gleaned from meeting recluse Gus Lacey (the always delightful Stephen Root) about a secret military program that trains psychic soldiers blossoms into a briar patch of metaphysics and warped agendas.
Wilton has a chance encounter with Lyn Cassady, the man named by Lacey as the top psychic soldier in the field. After some prodding, Cassady inducts Wilton into a strange quest leading to Iraq and a plethora of out-there info about the First Earth Battalion, soldiers of which are named after something sci-fi geeks will get a kick out of hearing Ewan "Obi-Wan" McGregor told about.
George Clooney is fantastic as Cassady, a man of such strong faith and conviction that he may be an idiot or a genius, possibly both. Jeff Bridges riffs on his "Dude" persona as consciousness-expanding guru Bill Django, who wrote the First Earth Battalion guide on peace-bringing warfare and headed the initial military training group.
Every movement needs a Judas and Kevin Spacey is ripe for the role as jealous psychic soldier runner-up Larry Hooper. Hooper subverted Django's objective of a peaceful alternative approach to war into yet another potentially cost-effective method of killing. That's where the title comes into play - the attempt to stop a goat's heart by staring at it.
The cast is more stacked and fantastic than there is space to mention and the surreal trip and bizarre look at the convoluted military intelligence system is more than worth the journey. (Maple)