Directed By: Grant Heslov
Starring: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Root, Stephen Lang
When Bob Wilton’s wife leaves him for his one armed editor he follows the time honored tradition of heartbroken men and goes to war. Well at least he tries to. After being stuck in Kuwait for a month waiting for permission to enter Iraq he runs into Lyn Cassidy. A name familiar to him because of an interview he had done months earlier with Gus Lacey, a self described physic warrior who claimed to have been trained by the government. Gus explained that there was even one man in his unit who could stop the heart of a goat with his mind, Lyn Cassidy.
After Bob, played by Ewan McGregor, convinces Lyn, George Clooney, that he is just a reporter Lyn opens up and explains that he is a Jedi warrior, retired. That he and Lacey were members of the New Earth Army a top secret group of warrior monks who under the direction of Bill Django, Jeff Bridges, practiced remote viewing, tried to walk through walls and make themselves invisible and researched ways to win wars through love and understanding instead of death and destruction. Now however Lyn is just trying to sell garbage cans to the Iraqis. Bob doesn’t quite know what to make of all this but knows it’s more interesting than the story about Iraqi contractors that he had been planning to write and eventually persuades Lyn to let him tag along with him into Iraq the next day.
The next day they start their ill fated journey into Iraq and it doesn’t take long for everything to go awry. First they crash their car, then they get kidnapped, after rescuing themselves from the kidnappers they get caught in the crossfire between two private security teams, each mishap though actually brings them closer to their destiny in the desert. As they travel Lyn fills Bob in about Bill Django and the New Earth Army. How Bill came back from Vietnam convinced there had to be a better way to fight a war and how he persuaded the top brass to let him go on a six year fact finding mission into the heart of the counter culture. At the end of his journey Bill came back to the army with a brand new plan. The timing was good for Bill; the Army was at the time worried about intelligence that the Soviets were investigating the paranormal so in an effort not to fall behind the Russians Bill was allowed to create the New Earth Army.
Both parts of the movie are enjoyable the road movie with Lyn and Bob, and the history of the New Earth Army told in flashback. The only problem comes in the last act when the filmmakers try to tie everything up in a neat little knot. All our protagonists are able to pull off is a symbolic victory at best and even that rings hollow. They may have won the battle but the dark side won the war. Even with its problems though the ending is the only time Ewan, George, Kevin and Jeff are all on the screen together and they all have at least a few moments to shine.
The video is presented in wide screen format. The black levels are excellent and the color is rich but not over saturated. I never noticed any appreciable amounts of grain even in the darkest scenes. As you would expect from a new release there hints of any print damage. I couldn’t find any serious cases of blooming, moiré, aliasing or other compression artifacts.
Colors are quite vivid and black levels are deep and inky. Detail levels and contrast are stronger on the 1080p blu-ray than on the SD DVD but the cleaner visuals also highlight the bland flatness of the overall image. The transfer is very clean and free of artifacts but the overall image from the source will keep this one from being a demo for your big TV.
The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound with English and Spanish subtitles. The mix is great with the interesting score by Rolfe Kent never overpowering the dialog. I never noticed any distortion and never found myself having to ride the volume up and down.
HD audio comes in the form of Dolby True HD 5.1 and overall it sounds great. This is a talkie film so most everything is confined to the front speakers but in the action scenes the entire soundstage does get to come alive. Dialogue, score, and fx are crisp, clean and well mixed. Like the video, this presentation is very solid but it lacks any bells or whistles that might send it over the top. A little ambient sound in the rear speakers during talking scenes is one example of what could have pushed the score higher here.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in a standard DVD case with a cardboard slipcase. The artwork is inspired; it complements the quirky tone of the film wonderfully. The artwork is carried over to the straight forward and easy to navigate menus. There is a fair amount of bonus materials, in addition to two audio commentaries, one by the director Grant Heslov and one by Jon Ronson who wrote the book the movie is based on, there are several featurettes. One about the real New Earth Battalion, one introducing the main characters in the movie and the standard making of doc. They are all worth watching or giving a listen to. Especially the audio commentary with Jon Ronson, he separates the truth from the fiction and fills in the real names that inspired the characters in the movie.
This is a funny movie, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun watching Ewan, George, Jeff and Kevin all play off one another. True the ending squanders a lot of goodwill built up during the rest of the movie but it’s just so much fun watching not only the main players but the side characters played by the likes of Robert Patrick, Stephen Root, and Stephen Lang it more than makes up for it. So yeah I may cringe a few times during the ending but I doubt I’ve seen this movie for the last time.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10