Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage) is a true American patriot, and would think nothing of putting his life on the line if it meant doing the best for his country. However, he is more of a dreamer than a doer, and thanks to his diabetes and kidney problems which need regular dialysis he does suffer hallucinations that he perhaps takes more seriously than he really should, especially when he witnesses God Almighty (Russell Brand) talking to him. This has happened ever since he was a little boy and God offered words of comfort to him when a bully burst his balloon, but now things are going to get tough: the World Trade Center has fallen and Osama Bin Laden is to blame, so why has he not been caught?
Perhaps, God suggests, Gary could track him down and bring him to justice? More than suggests, actually, He positively orders the delusional man to do so, which was where the story took us. That said, it became clear around halfway through that there was just nowhere to go with this story, which made it curious why director Larry Charles, a comedy veteran by this stage, would want to deliver a movie about it. It would appear the chief appeal was that the story was a true one, or at least semi-true in the fashion that Hollywood approached the matter of biographies, and had done for decades, and the narration as good as admitted that though in essence Gary did indeed follow his fortunes to Pakistan to trace Bin Laden.
You will probably be aware that he was unsuccessful in that task, which left a movie about a man who more or less fails, but tries to make that a triumph in itself; having a world famous movie star portray you could be judged some kind of achievement, but he was still conveying the bothersome matter that you were probably insane. Interestingly, this did not lay the blame for Faulkner's follies at the feet of his physical health problems, as a strong influence on them was broadly hinted to be the United States' firm belief that it was the greatest country in the world. If there is a greatest country in the world it would be difficult to judge unless you had experience of all the others, but part of the joke was that America was convinced it knew best.
Be that on matters domestic or foreign, and that U.S.A.-centric view was ironically part of the film's idea of what Central Asia was like, for when Faulkner reached his destination it was a dusty, desert-set city little better than a sprawling, impoverished Third World hellhole, rather than the lush and verdant region that a quick image search on the internet could have informed the production Islamabad genuinely looked like. You kind of expected an American movie to get things like that wrong, but that was by no means making it acceptable, it did speak to lazy thinking which rendered the sharper points about patriotism turning jingoism turning outright delusion that degree blunter. Couple that with a performance from Cage where he amped up his by now accustomed eccentricity to warp speed, and you had a strange, unwieldy beast indeed.
Back when he was becoming a star, Cage had been the leading man in Peggy Sue Got Married, a film generally thought to have been sabotaged by his bizarre choice to play his role with a funny voice. So it was here, as he adopted the nasal whine of Dustin Hoffman on helium, which apparently was Cage's approximation of the real Faulkner, as we see in the news clips during the end credits where the authentic article was shown for us to judge the star's performance by. From that, you could see he was not too bad in some ways, the enthusiasm was certainly there, but he had opted for a cartoon caricature of an already over the top personality, which left him in a vacuum in comparison with the other cast members. Most prominent among those was not Brand (who was really a glorified guest star) but the woman in Gary's life, Marci, played by comic actress Wendi McLendon-Covey, who suggested a more controlled movie than the one we got. It was obvious this was done on the cheap, but that was no excuse for fumbling its opportunities or a provocative message. Music by David Newman.