You can forget about Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler and all the rest: George Clooney is the best actor in the world if you're looking for someone to play a credible idiot. A George Clooney idiot is shallow and utterly self-involved, but he is a complete person—a complete, shallow, self-involved person. Traditionally, Clooney has saved his best idiots for the Coen brothers—his doltish performance in Burn After Reading is a masterwork—but Clooney's Lyn Cassady, the psychic warrior who drives the plot of The Men Who Stare at Goats, gives his best fools a real run for their money.

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Based on a nonfiction book about the U.S. Army's attempts to harness its soldiers' paranormal abilities for combat, Goats adds some fictional elements and sets the film in 2004 at the height of Iraq-war combat—but it promises before the film opens that "more of this is true than you would believe." Indeed, Cassady and Jeff Bridges's Bill Django are lifted wholesale from the book, and they're the most believable characters in the film. Django's transformation from a Vietnam veteran to a new-age hippie soldier is compelling and believable. The characters who are pastiches or inventions—most particularly Ewan McGregor's reporter (who narrates the film in a plastic, nasal American accent) and Kevin Spacey's villainous bureaucrat—lack the (idiotic) roundness of Cassady and Django.

Even at an hour and a half, Goats is a bit bloated at its center, heavy with one too many expository scenes. But there's so much fertile ground for metaphor here—about how middle management can turn even the most noble idea into mush, about how the love generation's biggest failure was its inability to stop the Iraq war, and much more besides—that Goats is perhaps the best, least preachy American movie yet made about our misadventures in Iraq. It's a funny and generous film. Even idiots who think they can walk through walls, Goats suggests, are people too. recommended