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THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS – Rolfe Kent

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Contrary to popular belief, The Men Who Stare At Goats is not a film about the life story of my good friend and esteemed colleague James Southall; instead, it is a comedy-drama about the US government’s experiments in psychic warfare. Directed by George Clooney’s longtime writing partner Grant Heslov, it stars Ewan McGregor as Bob Wilton, a reporter in Iraq who thinks he may have uncovered the story of a lifetime when he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney) a slightly deranged former US army officer who claims to have been part of a top-secret project to equip the military with soldiers capable of paranormal powers. With a quirky supporting cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and Robert Patrick, The Men Who Stare At Goats has all the right credentials to become a cult hit; along for the ride is composer Rolfe Kent.

Kent’s score mirrors the slightly surreal, eccentric tone of the film, flitting from style to style, but always remaining on the quirky side of things. In “Opening Titles: A Run At the Wall”, “Cloudbursting on the Road”, “Escaping the Kidnappers” he is in pseudo-spy caper mode, with bass flutes, jazzy string writing and ‘sneaking around’ music leading the way; in the similar-sounding “Hitching a Ride/We Are Jedi” Kent makes use of a solo vocalist intoning nonsense words on the top of the music, which raises the eccentricity levels up a notch further. Cues such as “From Ann Arbor to War”, “Bill’s Speech/A New Kind of Warrior” and “There is No Mission?/The Goat Lab” have a clear Thomas Newman/American Beauty vibe, with marimbas and guitars, sprightly rhythmic writing, and an occasional jazzy overtone that is often reminiscent of Kent’s score for Sideways.

Some of the more sensitive, pathos-driven moments feature delicate pianos and strumming guitars, such as in “Without Bill the Jedi Changed”, while the lush “Oasis”, “Jedi Prayer” ans “Releasing the Goats” have a more conventional symphonic sweep which is very satisfying. In addition, as one might expect given the film’s geographical setting, a lot of the music has an intangible Middle Eastern quality, either through certain woodwind phrasings, the use of ethnic percussion, or particular chord progressions. Tracks such as “The Echmaer Technique” (which also uses the sounds of knives being sharpened!), “A Night at Mahmoud’s” and “Desert Ride” are the best examples of this kind of writing.

It’s all very light and undemanding, but also a little generic, which ultimately makes the score rather forgettable. The story itself is so unconventional that creating an overarching musical mood was always going to be difficult, so instead Kent treated the film as a series of comedy vignettes, which works in context, but never fully transfers over to a cohesive listening experience.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Opening Titles: A Run At the Wall (1:24)
  • From Ann Arbor to War (2:05)
  • Lyn Shows the New Earth Army Manual/Bill’s Epiphany (2:05)
  • Bill’s Speech/A New Kind of Warrior (1:40)
  • Cloudbursting on the Road (0:52)
  • Hitching a Ride/We Are Jedi (2:43)
  • Dolce (1:05)
  • The Echmaer Technique (0:54)
  • Escaping the Kidnappers (1:18)
  • Gas Station Shootout (2:27)
  • A Night at Mahmoud’s (1:52)
  • Without Bill the Jedi Changed (0:53)
  • Desert Ride (1:52)
  • There is No Mission?/The Goat Lab (1:16)
  • Lyn Stares at the Goat (1:06)
  • Oasis (1:15)
  • The Base, and Bill (1:31)
  • Do You Believe in Redemption? (0:47)
  • Jedi Prayer (0:58)
  • LSD in the Water (1:31)
  • Releasing the Goats (4:08)
  • Writing the Story (0:44)

Running Time: 34 minutes 26 seconds

ABKCO B-002-TVOCTI (2009)

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