Ewan McGregor plays a journalist named Bob Wilton, who while trying to get over his broken marriage, meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), who claims to be a former member of the US Army’s First Earth Battalion, an elite force trained to use their psychic powers to help them change the way the world thinks of war.
During a road trip into Iraq (during which the two men are kidnapped, rescued and find themselves lost in the desert), Cassady tells Wilton all about the training he underwent in the 1980s, under the command of Bill Django (Jeff Bridges). Also in the Battalion is Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) who becomes an intense rival of Cassady, due to their conflicting views about the the First Earth Battalion should utilise their skills. Cassady reveals how he eventually became disillusioned with the Army life after using his powers for bad rather than good (he manages to stop a goat’s heart using his own willpower). Now though, Cassady is on a mission, the likes of which are not revealed until the end of the film.
Despite the subject matter this is a comedy – and very funny it is too. George Clooney plays his role with his familiar easy charm and is an endearing and likeable character. Jeff Bridges, as always, is superb in his role of the New Age believer Django, and Kevin Spacey is suitably sly and cruel for him to make Hooper a truly unlikeable character. The only actor who I felt was not up to his usual standard was McGregor – his attempt at an American accent was not great, and I think it would have been better if he had been cast as a Scottish journalist. However, his natural charisma carried him through.
There are plenty of laugh out loud moments in the film, and I left the cinema feeling light hearted and very satisfied. Recommended. (Incredibly, the movie is based on actual events, and most of the main characters are based on real people. McGregor seems to be based on the British journalist Jon Ronson, who wrote the book on which the movie is based).
Year of release: 2009
Director: Grant Heslov
Writers: Jon Ronson (book), Peter Straughan
Main cast: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey