|The Good Shepherd (Combo HD DVD and Standard DVD) [HD DVD]
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Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro star in this powerful thriller about the birth of the CIA. Edward Wilson (Damon) believes in America, and will sacrifice everything he loves to protect it. But as one of the covert founders of the CIA, Edward's youthful idealism is slowly eroded by his growing suspicion of the people around him. Everybody has secrets¡but will Edward's destroy him? With an all-star cast including Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton and John Turturro, it's the gripping story David Ansen of Newsweek hails as "spellbinding."
A complicated movie about the Central Intelligence Agency and its agents, The Good Shepherd isn't your typical spy movie. Though it stars Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity films) and Angelina Jolie (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Lara Croft franchise)--actors with considerable experience in the action-espionage genre--The Good Shepherd requires that they play more subdued and (much less interesting) characters here. The movie focuses on the career or Edward Wilson (Damon), a privileged Yale graduate who goes on to help found the CIA. He is a quiet, serious, and guarded man, even in the most intimate moments with his civilian wife (Jolie, in a role that wastes her talent). Set against a backdrop of real-life events such as the Bay of Pigs, The Good Shepherd is meticulous in creating a realistic timeframe. The film gets a jolt of excitement when Robert DeNiro (in his first directing role since 1993's A Bronx Tale) peppers the screen with appearances by Joe Pesci, Alec Baldwin, and William Hurt. But those moments are too infrequent. At 157 minutes long, the film is crammed with many factual details, but the characters are shortchanged when it comes to development. Viewers have to wonder why anyone, much less someone like Wilson who has everything going for him, would devote his life to a thankless job that brings so little happiness to himself and his family. The Good Shepherd is an ambitious but flawed film. The actors do a formidable job with a well-intentioned but meandering script. However, we meet so many characters and learn so little about each that it's difficult to drum up much empathy for any of them. --Jae-Ha Kim
- Falls apart at the end
I'm still not sure what happens at the conclusion here. And it is, after all, more than 2.5 hours long, an eternity by today's movie standards. Matt Damon is a little less than convincing as the cold warrior, but this gathers steam, overall, and I did manage to watch it all at one sitting, which is saying something for a long movie. Even Angelina Jolie isn't bad as the neglected wife who just wants to have fun. Flawed, but not a throw-away either....more info
- A great spy-film deserves a better DVD
The Good Shepherd is easily one of the best spy films ever made. It's got brilliant (and understated) acting, perfectly paced direction, and excellent use of (a very cold) tone running throughout it. It's also an excellent story using human drama (much like John Lecarre) to move the various scenes forward.....in short a great movie given lack-luster DVD treatment.
The DVD itself has "16 minutes" of deleted scenes and...well..that's it. No "making of", no interview with the cast, no story-boards, NOTHING. This is a huge shame mostly because the film itself turned alot of people off with it's dense plot and cold characters and I think a commentary or "making of" would've been the best thing to help people along. This could've opened the movie's fan-base and given people a new respect for it. Again, this is a totally missed opportunity.
I'm still giving this DVD 5-stars because the film's just that good. The picture quality is great and if you're a fan of this movie while it was in theaters you'll love revisiting it....more info
- Decent overall, but not what I was expecting for a CIA movie
This was an enjoyable movie to watch, but honestly, it lacked pace, action, and adventure.
I bought this movie because of the cast, and they performed brilliantly as always. It's not the actor's fault the script was slow paced.
I do recommend this movie to add to your collection. It's enjoyable, but not a blockbuster in my personal opinion.
I give it a 3, right down the middle.
Give it a shot, and judge for yourself.
--James Michael Collins--...more info
- Good, but confusing
I would guess I'm not the only person to have trouble sorting out the twists and turns of a spy film's plot - the layers of betrayal, to be convincing enough to keep even veteran spies plausibly in doubt, have to be very confusing. As such, the morning after, I've got these questions.
1) Is William Hurt's Phil Allen character, apparently based loosely on Allen Dulles, guilty of embezzling money? guilty of taking money from the Soviets? or merely guilty of financial indiscretions which make him susceptible to blackmail? Dulles' financial issues are an interesting footnote to history - that he and his brother as lawyers represented American firms deeply invested in Germany after World War I and remaining so in Nazi Germany but with several layers of financial secrecy through Swiss banks and business fronts - but there has been no suggestions that his loyalty was compromised.
2)Who is Ulysses? Is he a KGB spymaster, or a highly placed KGB spy in the Western spy apparatus?
3)Getting away from plot to character for a moment, Angelina Jolie's character, Wilson's wife Clover/Margaret, rings untrue in one way. She meets him as a wild, beautiful, rich girl. She's seemingly luring him into a sexual liaison because she's expected to find a husband from the right social class and feels pressed to do so with the war threatening to take most eligible men away. I have trouble translating her into the unhappy, drunk, passive wife and mother that lives uncomfortably with him for another 15 years after the war. Far more likely is the suggestion dangled early on when Wilson calls on the phone from occupied Berlin and hears his young son let slip that she's going out with someone, planting the suspicion in his mind that she's being unfaithful, and he retaliates by allowing himself to be drawn into a fling with his translator. The plot uses this to show that this was a onetime thing on her part, and meanwhile Wilson himself allows himself to be compromised when the translator turns out to be a Russian spy. But I would find it more convincing to believe that Clover isn't a girl to suffer the lack of male company for very long, and to have left him for another man by the war's end. I also can't see where the wild girl disappears to. This is unconvincing.
4)I didn't realize until late in the movie that Wilson's Russian counterpart was not, himself, the (fake) defector. I'm not too good with faces. But I thought that was the basis for Wilson's trust in the defector.
5)With the rapid crosscutting between scenes and time periods, and little change in Wilson's appearance to help signal the changes, I was initially confused over the thread - a hair? a violin string? an antenna? - found in the book, was found on his own desk or that of the (fake) defector whom Wilson in the adjoining scenes is confronting in the man's home late one night.
6)I had some trouble separating out the fellow Bonesmen - the guy who talks Wilson into staying in Bones following the humiliating initiation scene and who Wilson follows up the ranks at the CIA, vs. Clover's brother who is killed in World War II, vs. the Senator (her father?), etc.
7)Wilson's ethnic remark to Pesci's character, seemingly meant to be emblematic of WASP bigotry, isn't convincing. Pesci's Joey Prima mobster character is in Wilson's face a bit, busting his balls about his ethnicity. I just see the usually buttoned up Wilson letting loose for a moment to give it right back to him. The scene is still worthwhile dramatically, though, as Wilson gets to witness the close-knit nature of Prima's family, as Prima bickers with his daughter about taking good care of his grandchildren at the beach.
8)At Yale, the word was that it was Scroll and Key, not Skull and Bones, that had the inside track at the State Department and the CIA.
9)Some reviewers see Turturro's character as brutal. Only in one scene is he portrayed as slapping around someone during an interrogation, and the stakes are pretty high when he does. There is no groundwork to suggest that he has a brutal streak in his nature. I find his character's most important function as to highlight the unfair ethnic-class structure at the time. The character is older than Wilson at the outset and also a college graduate, but merely a noncom because he's Catholic and Italian.
There were tons I loved about this movie. Its examination of the conflicting loyalties to country, family, school, secret society and job, and the toll this takes over a lifetime, is formidable. I think its period scenes of 1930s Yale and the Skull and Bones milieu are excellent. I think, however, that the book "The Company" (more than the TV miniseries based on it)does a better job covering the same material with the same themes while rendering it far less confusing.
My questions about this are not a reflection of the film's flaws, rather of my own obtuseness and the film's subtlety. I probably need to watch it again. ...more info
- How life turns shape us
If there ever was a worn out spy, Matt Damon is definitely the one in his fine portrayal of Edward Wilson, CIA agent from priviledged family and Yale education. I have not seen a character like this since John Le Carre's agent Smiley. Edward is a quiet man, who keeps his emotions and feelings to himself. He is also damaged, since as a child, he witnessed his father's suicide. The emotional void of having a father figure in his life, pushes him towards seemingly caring man such as his mentor at the university and eventually towards career in CIA. Edward is pushed into a marriage to a woman (played by Angelina Jolie) he barely knows and the marriage is doomed from the start. Their son, the bond that keeps the marriage together is also a reminder to both of them of their poor match. As we trace Edward's career thru some of the important events of the cold war, we learn about him as a father, husband, lover and the unscrupulous secret agent. It is difficult to imagine that sensitive young man, interested in poetry and above all loyal to the people close to him would resort to the dread of a life of a spymaster full of secrets and lies. But then, as the film reaches its conclusion we almost get to think of him as a an on the suicide mission of his own. He is not looking into pulling the trigger on himself, but he is walking on the tight rope, close to falling at any time. Then again, he is so worn out and alone, that after al, he has very little to lose in this game. Directed by Robert DeNiro with wonderful cast of actors....more info
- 2 stars out of 4
The Bottom Line:
Agonizingly long and additionally slow because Matt Damon's lead character is blandness personified, The Good Shepherd sounds good on paper but should be avoided at all costs: it fails as a history lesson and it sure as heck fails as a movie....more info
- So close to excellent...
This film just bites off more than most any movie could ever chew. It should be lauded for its ambition, but it's just too slow and sprawling to really move the viewer as much as it wants to.
Damon is good but not great, and never made me care much for his character. Same for Jolie and most everyone else. Not a great script, but I applaud the effort to inject some truth into the many CIA myths out there. The MK-Ultra scene was quite interesting. Anyone who's read some the books by ex-agents will recognize some enlightening little tid-bits; the cynicism generated by playing both sides against the middle comes through nicely.
In the end, however, close but no cigar. The definitive Agency film has yet to be made. But then, that might be far too much truth for the kool-aid drinkers to grasp......more info
- The Good Shepherd - Metaphoric History of the CIA
With a very slow moving story, we are brought through the beginnings of what some may view of how the CIA developed in the first few decades. Matt Damon does an excellent job portraying a very quiet, somewhat cold hearted man who gets recruited by the CIA while studying at Yale.
We have a number of flashbacks and forwards that you must keep an eye on to make sure you know where you are. Interestingly developed as a story, you see one man's life influenced by what he does for the company. Although a very interesting story, there are messages you see in the movie. One is a scene where someone is wearing one of the infamous hoods from the Abu Gharib tortures, this is supposed to be 1959 or 1960, so, the message here is that this type of thing has been common since then.
Interesting things include the development of the character played by Damon through the beginnings with WWII and the relationship with the spy networks in England.
The play of Damon and his colleagues, the intrigue, the distrust and the final culmination of his work. The Good Shepherd plays as a metaphor of sorts, reflecting how one man's life applies to the beginnings and development of the agency.
- This could have been good
This film is not complicated or cerebral as some have commented. It tries to be that but these attributes should not be confused with a thin plot supported by a sound track that seems to be in every scene making noises for no reason, disjoined scenes, dark sets and minimal dialogue. It could have been good if the plot and characters were fleshed out. I've watched it three times and the film becomes thinner and the backing track even more pervasive and annoying. A chance was missed with this one.
This film is often compared with the Constant Gardener (that did have a plot which needed following). But leaving people confused is not deep film making. All I got out of it was that the central character was a cold blooded, upper class and uncompassionate CIA operative, with little love for himself or his family - so what?...more info
- The Good Shepard
The film and the actors were very good. The exception was Angelina Jolie who seemed at times to be coasting through the film. The script tried to cover a long piece of history and did not carry it off. I am familiar with the era and was a bit disappointed....more info
- Boring, boring, boring
I couldn't find anything in this film remotely entertaining about this film. Sure some facts are meticulous, but as far as ever caring about any of these characters-nada. It's just slightly better than Clooney's Syriana. At least I was able to make heads or tails what was going on in this one. I just still didn't care. Pass this one by if you can....more info
- The Critics Didn't 'Get It' on this one
As the product review shows, the crtiics and, indeed, most viewers did not 'get' The Good Shepherd. Although realizing that it was a subdued and cerebral film, most who have watched it did not 'get' what the film was all about. Let's take another look at what is a slightly flawed but essentially brilliant movie that might just be worth your money and time after all!
What this film is not: This film is not an espionage thriller. This film is not a history of the CIA--that's the backdrop.
What this film is: The personality study and life history of one of the CIA's earliest employees, Edward Wilson (a fictitious character, played by Matt Damon, who shows surprising acting depth in the understated but intense character). The film serially develops Wilson's web of loyalties and relationships, with the Yale professor he admires, with his wife (Angelina Jolie, miscast rather badly in one of the films few flaws), with Skull and Bones, and with his son. He also has complex loyalties with a KGB rival and a defector. Plus, there are CIA Founder Wild Bill Donovan (well-done by actor-director deNiro), Damon's supervisor (William Hurt) and his FBI liaison (Alec Baldwin).
Each and every one of these institutions or characters comes forth at some point to test Damon's loyalties. Will he compromise his country for an engaging KGB man who wants to do him "a very great favor?" Will he put his love of family above his love of country? Which comes first, Loyalty to Skull and Bonesmen or the Agency? His boss or his integrity?
Joe Pesce, in a cameo as a retired mob boss, tells Damon "We Italians, we have our food, our families, our church; what do YOU have?"
Damon's reply tells the viewer why the film is titled as it is: "I have the United States of America."
Watch carefully for the nuances of the gift shop scene with the KGB and you will unravel the last mysrey of a long, subtle, film that gets more engaging as it goes along.
If the above sounds good, maybe this IS the film for you to buy and watch a few times to pull out the enjoyable nuances and delightfully light directorial touches....more info
- Brilliant Examination of "Fatherhood" and "Loyalty" Against a Backdrop of National Security
Well, let's get the weaknesses of this film out of the way first. Matt Damon (playing the lead role of Wilson), while likely cast for his ability to bring a silent, brooding, inscrutable intensity to his roles (which this lead role requires), is not really a good fit--too boyish in his looks, not enough gravitas to be playing someone as powerful as a CIA head guy, even one in his early years. I just didn't buy him in this role at initial viewing, though it had nothing to do with his acting abilities. And in fact, once this initial impression is gotten over, one recognizes that Mr. Damon actually delivers a very solid, nuanced performance; and his boyish looks actually become an asset whose strength lies in a sense that his character is, actually, a 'puer aeternis'--a perpetual boy who never learned what it means to be a true man in the sense that fatherhood would require. Next, Angelina Jolie was grossly miscast as the lonely, bitter, betrayed housewife--though Ms. Jolie manages. I believe these casting miscues distracted from the film's forward motion, and so cost the film greatly I think, with much of the viewing public.
But on to the strengths. I must strenously disagree with the Amazon editorial review of Jae Ha Kim, who gets it backward: While elements of casting were weak, the plot/theme was brilliantly played out, with a perfectly paced 2 hours and thirty minutes (roughly). De Niro's decision to use flashback sequences to tell this story required this kind of extended time frame, as they are less direct from a plot-telling standpoint; and the 'flashbacks' device very usefully allowed the audience to focus on how Wilson has arrived at his present position, plot-wise and thematically; the flashbacks also created tension and suspense, as this film is very much a 'whodunit.' The cinematography was also meticulous, complementing the director's attention to plot detail, which added (along with the flashbacks) to an effect of seeing the unfolding of events through Wilson's very meticulous eyes.
And beyond the plot development, we have what makes this film excellent, and highly underrated: The themes of 'loyalty' and 'fatherhood' set against a backdrop of National Security. The 'loyalty' theme involves the question, "which loyalty is most important: To country, to family, to fraternity (i.e., secret society running things), or to self?" The 'fatherhood' theme involves the exploration of Wilson's own failures as a father to his son, which are instigated psychologically by his own father's failure to BE a father to him (Wilson's father takes his own life when Wilson is a boy); it also involves Wilson's becoming, in a sort of twist, a 'father to his country' in becoming one of the founding 'fathers' of the CIA. De Niro (Directing) interweaves these two themes brilliantly. And in this, the film's true plot (from a thematic standpoint) is about Wilson's personal journey from fatherless boy to a man who's own attempts at fatherhood are undermined and betrayed by his psychological inability to be a good father to his son. The terrible irony is that the personal qualities that compromise his own fatherhood abilities are the very ones that make him an effective spy. Pointedly, the film askes, "is this a worthy tradeoff?" And using this thematic query as a launching pad, this film is rightly seen as being a critique of not only the CIA, but of the nature of international "spying" in general. Boys are left fatherless through confused notions of "loyalty" to--what? And are the costs worth it?
Ultimately, this film seems to be arguing that a person's inability to honor himself and his family first, both corrupts and aids, ironically, his attempts to honor so-called 'greater' national and international interests; that America herself, in a way, is left fatherless by those running it, because those running it lack the psychological ability to understand what true "fatherhood" (either of a child or a country) means, by virtue of themselves having been left fatherless by their predecessors' own misgebotten sense of loyalty. At the same time, the film poses the question, "what if, in the world of spying and counterintelligence between nations vying for power and survival, self/family values are not an asset, but rather a liability?"
Thus the film's title, "The Good Shepherd," offers both a sarcastic irony, and a lament. An irony, as we watch these fatherless fathers of the nation fail their own families by giving greater loyalty to secret societies and notions of national "duty," and by compromising their own moral high ground through twisted values of leadership. And a lament, for the world we live in is admittedly dog-eat-dog, and would appear to require a set of twisted values on the part of our leaders to ensure our survival.
- Generally good despite a few flaws
This is, in general, a film that kept me riveted to my seat. Performances good except for Angelina Jolie, who shouts rather than acts during parts of the film. Billy Crudup could have used additional coaching with his English accent. It required more than one viewing for me to unravel a plot that went back and forth between present and past, but it made sense after a couple of viewings. Matt Damon is excellent as is the rest of the cast. No one should take this for history, but it does provide what seems to be some insight into the mentality of CIA and its Soviet counterpart, KGB during the Cold War. One of the most interesting episodes is what happens to a KGB agent who is mistakenly believed to be a plant trying to discredit a true KGB defector. The movie has a feeling of reality though it is a fictionalized version of certain characters, periods and events in the history of CIA. Intelligently written. Robert DeNiro has done a stellar job as director....more info
- The Bittersweet Spy
This is a well made film, unfortunately overlooked despite its star ensemble cast and production. Clocking in at 168 minutes, it probably would have made a better mini series. Robert DeNiro does a great job directing this. However the casting of Matt Damon as a man who gives his life up for the CIA was perhaps not the most inspired choice. I agree it's hard to empathise with him, but I saw that as the limitations of Matt Damon's acting abilities. Taciturn and not particularly expressive, Matt Damon also hardly ages much across the decades that this film spans - he's too constant and thus never progresses as a character.
Nonetheless, the movie is engaging - even though it could have benefitted from more tension. As it is, the DVD's deleted scenes reveal entire sequences that would've made the movie even longer. Given the film's multiple subplots, leaving these scenes out didn't hurt. To sum up, The Good Shepherd plays/ reads like a book, and for those confused about the plot...watch it with subtitles. The ensemble cast makes it worthwhile - Angelina Jolie does a great job as does William Hurt, John Turturro, Alec Baldwin, and everyone else.
DeNiro may have been trying to channel his Cold War version of the Godfather here, but this is a slow burn and Damon is no Pacino. Still, a sterling movie and monumental effort from a screen legend....more info
- I spy with my little eye - something beginning with `d' - for dull.
De Niro makes a surprising move here into spy territory - not modern Bourne type stuff (despite the presence of Matt Damon) but more like an American John Le Carre type story, in its understated events and emphasis on character. It's a noble endeavor, at times wonderfully shot - however, it is ultimately too flawed to succeed as entertainment.
The story revolves around the creation of the CIA, seen through the eyes of Edward Wilson (a composite of several real life characters). It plays as a character driven story showing what can make a man choose a life of permanent paranoia and secrecy, and the impact that has on his life. In this way the atmosphere around the time of the new Agency's genesis is portrayed rather than a strict blow by blow account of how it came to be. A superb and committed cast have been gathered, (including a blink and you'll miss it cameo from Joe Pesci), and there is a clear feeling of the proceedings oozing talent, from art direction and photography, through to actors and music.
However, there is something about the pacing that is not quite right - at 160 minutes, we should have some significant moments of drama to drive our interest on, but somehow we are left with a spy story of non-people and non-events... a spy movie without suspense. There's an interesting enough story arc for our main character, and the audience is asked to be intelligent enough to fill in some gaps - but the padding has turned what could have been an atmospheric and informative movie into something bloated and dull. This is no epic or definitive account.
Regular readers of mine will know I am no huge fan of rapid fire MTV style editing a la `Armageddon' and its ilk - but a movie still has to have some drive and entertainment value. That's missing here, despite the core having some very interesting things to say about the disease of loneliness and what it does to a man. Sad to say, no endorsement from me on this one, even though it has moments that really make me want to like it.
- extremely and un-necessarily convoluted.
I got lost more times than I have fingers watching this movie. The story keeps switching back and forth between 1961-65 and 1939-45. Now it does tell you at the bottom of the screen what year you're in but it switched so mamy times that I got lost once and couldn't figure out if I was in the 40's or the 60's and to tell you the truth at that point of this almost 3 hour movie. I really didn't care. I also had trouble keeping track of who all the characters were. The director does not do a good job of explaining things. You just have to figure it all out for yourself. And though I did watch the whole movie and I do understand what it's about. I think I would have to watch it about 2 more times to really get everything. But I'm just not willing to invest 9 hours on this. I'm sorry I wasted the 3. I watched it with my girlfriend and we kept asking each other "Do you understand what's going on"?, "Who's this person"?, "what year are we in"?
I have other issues with this movie other than the convoluted story. The whole movie is filmed very, VERY, dark! It's like you're watching it with sunglasses on. There's one part in the movie when they get a russian spy to cross to their side, and they pretty much just take him at his word and consider him one of them. Later on in the movie another russian claims to be the same guy and wants to cross and says that the other Russian is a mole. Instead of taking this guy at his word, they torture him for several hours and when he sticks to his story they give him LSD as a truth serum and not only does he STILL stick to his story but he jumps out the window killing himself. All this gives the agents NO reason to believe that the guy they're trusting MIGHT actually be the mole!!! They don't torture him, they don't even question him. They just go on believing him. And guess what. He turns out to be the mole. Matt Damon finds this out by noticing a feather coming out of a book that one of his spy friends gave the mole. He then peels back the inside cover of the book reveiling a passport and other incriminating evidence. I mean this is truly stupid and really made the whole movie stupid. If you're going to make a movie this confusing it better at least be good and make sense and this movie does not. And why is Joe Pessci in this movie??? His Character is meaningless from what I can tell. Robert DiNero - A Bronx Tale this is not! Try again.
Interesting, if disquieting, view of the kind of organization apparently necessary to a nation to stay afloat in today's world: Situation ethics; disposable loyalties; diverse and highly sophisticated technological tools; unswerving but troubling idealisms; personal costs to participants in anguish and guilt; incremental compromises of original principles; patriotic ruthlessness.... Our eventual realization that both our friends and our enemies have similar organizations, for similar reasons, creates in us, the viewers, a more-in-sadness-than-in-anger awareness that parallel organizations have probably always existed and, of necessity, probably always will. The film's dialogue is often muffled, oblique, and hard to understand---in keeping with its atmosphere of secrecy---but the viewer thereby tends to lose the detail thread of what's going on at the moment. A film to watch several times, but not one where the viewer ends up envying the participants' lives. ...more info
- Laughter-inducingly awful
This was a cringe fest. A cerebral spy film should be interesting, gripping, and engaging. This wasn't....more info
- This Shepherd Needed A Shorter Flock
Wow. THE GOOD SHERPHERD is such an intriguing movie--and such a departure for Matt Damon; if only director Robert De Niro (and I so look forward to watching his future directorial offerings) had left about half an hour of film on the cutting room floor this film would have been as exceptional as it would have been extraordinary. With a running time of close to three hours, the story inevitably bogs down and gets in its own way; but that's about as much badmouthing I'm going to give a movie I enjoyed as much as this one.
Depicting a promising young Yale grad picked by Army intelligence to work behind the lines during World War II, then tapped on the shoulder to help found what became the CIA, Matt Damon is absolutely riveting. His character, Edward Wilson, sacrifices everything--his personal life, his family--for espionage, intelligence, and counter-intelligence, as America enters the Cold War. Damon is stoic, devoid of emotion, soft spoken, unflappable--cold and heartless. Nothing seems to move him--even when his own son hangs in the balance. The events surrounding him--the Second World War, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, his son's ill-advised contacts with CIA targets--are spellbinding.
And you can't go wrong with Damon's supporting cast, including De Niro himself, William Hurt, and Alec Baldwin, just to name a few. John Turturro plays an effective, sometimes brutal, assistant to Damon's Wilson, yet unfortunately, Angelina Jolie is utterly wasted (pardon the pun) in a reduced role as the neglected, drunken wife. THE GOOD SHEPHERD is well worth the lengthy viewing; just make sure you have plenty of time to appreciate what it brings to the table.
--D. Mikels, Author, The Reckoning...more info
- It's missing something
"The Good Shepherd" is an interesting film about Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), a bright young man who graduates from Yale University and goes on to become one of the founding members of the CIA. The movie is set against a variety of important events in U.S. history, which makes the whole government/political aspect of the film very detailed and accurate. However, there's no spark on the emotional side of things. Damon delivers a strong performance as much as the script allows, but his character is a hollow shell of a man who lacks any emotion or feeling, and therefore makes it virtually impossible for the audience to sympathize for him in any way. This movie is almost three hours long, which seems like a lifetime when you haven't developed any sort of attachment to the main character. The supporting cast of the film is very impressive and includes the likes of Angelina Jolie, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro (who also directed the film). However, I don't think any of the characters were well-developed enough to allow the actors to display their vast talents, and therefore this film kind of missed its mark for me....more info
- An exceptional movie
I honestly do not understand why so many people have given this excellent movie such mediocre reviews. I can only imagine that in this dumbed-down age of limited attention spans, anything that challenges the intellect is regarded as 'uncool'. Some reviewers say that the characters are under-developed, while others say that De Niro has taken on too much. This is utter nonsense. The movie is superb, the casting is superb, the acting is superb, and the story is superb. It is, in other words, a masterpiece. ...more info
- Trust No One
THE GOOD SHEPHERD depicts the decades long growth of the CIA from its inception as seen through the eyes of a youthful rookie agent Edward Wilson, played by Matt Damon, whose screen character requires him to keep bottled up within him all emotion. It is his inability to articulate his feelings that form an unexpected subtext. From the time that we first meet a preteen Edward, who has witnessed the suicide of his father to the close of the film, we see the growth of an agent whose needed silences mark him as a superior operative but ironically require him to pay a personal price that alienates him from his wife and son. Angelina Jolie is his wife Margaret, who is attracted to Edward from the start and she makes it clear that she wants him as a husband. Her tragedy is that despite her character's smarts she does not foresee that the wife of an operative must be willing to share him with his job. She can overlook a fling with a woman but demands what Edward cannot provide, which is meaningful daily contact with a man who is aware of her private needs. What becomes evident soon enough is that even had Edward chosen another profession, his self-imposed silences probably would have led to conflict.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD is a film that smacks of a quasi-documentary that depicts a pre-war America that has no effective intelligence department and must develop one to keep pace first with Nazism, then with Soviet communism. Damon's low-key performance is effective more because of than despite his interpretation of a man who is constantly told to trust no one. There is a gripping subplot that suggests that someone in his section is a Soviet mole, a premise that reinforces this theme that a lack of trust is the inevitable result of a life that suggests that secrets must be locked up either in one's heart or in one's lockbox safe. The ending is deliberately lacking in an upbeat closure. The power of THE GOOD SHEPHERD lies in its ability to recreate an era that demanded that those who chose to play the game of intelligence often found that they were not the only ones who had to pay that price. ...more info
- Fabulous Film, above most even by John Le Carre
That this film has only an aggregate 3 stars is yet further proof that there are a lot of "stringer" spooks "out there" that post at these sites, policing us and our film opinions to make sure that we are steered away from such a superb and impressive movie, a film easily as good as anything John Le Carre brought to the screen, and most know how he is highly regarded as the novelist of record for such "spycraft." This film is every bit as good as anything he's done, high praise since he is so superbly nuanced, and it's a great introduction to the historical character of James Jesus Angleton, whose life "The Good Shepherd" uses as its model, though not exclusively. Many details of his life are closely reprised, though.
Though not that surprised, I was impressed that director and creator Bobby DeNiro had the chops, depth, and intellect to come up with such a compelling history of what's what at Langley. The roll-up at the end included a note that he intends a sequel, and I can't wait to see what he has planned, since all signs would point to it having some of the most important suggestions about all the rest of the "what's what" in our current day, with this blundering behemoth known as CIA ( note that the main compound there now is named "The George H. W. Bush Center for Intelligence" if you any more need persuading as to the oxymoronic nature of that Beast ~~ Bubba gave the dedicatory speech in fawning adulation of Poppy, and you can see that treacle if you go to "our" country's "intelligence" agency website, archived in their press releases from the end of the Millennium.)
Though by nature the film will arouse a certain controversy, it is anything but boring, rather riveting, and certainly should be at the top of anybody's DVD list. ( If you combine its insights with a film that is inescapably related, "The Good German" with Clooney, you'll see why Keith Olbermann recently tagged one of his recent stories "The Good German Shepherd," as a little levity poked at the peccadillos involved in each. )
Ever since the fascination that's developed out of "The Quiet American" of 2002, with Michael Caine in a stellar portrayal, and please read the background story on this by professor H. Bruce Franklin in The Nation, which you can find by googling "By the Bombs Early Light," a reprint of that review, there's been a sharper popular focus on the betrayals of the American people by our own intelligence community. Graham Greene was on to the whole thing, and the disaster known as "CIA," way back when, since the getgo when he covered it in his unknown role as British Intelligence officer.
All in all, this movie is a crowning achievement for DeNiro, who plays the old OSS boss William Donovan, renamed here S"ullavan" for the sake of "covert" courtesy. Seeing it will give you the flavor and feel of James Jesus Angleton, and others, who put their indelible stamp on the Agency and gave it the DNA that all Americans should hope to re-engineer into something less of a mutation, and more of a service. Much like "Gangs of New York," this film gives an accurate sense of history through a collage of several characters mixed into one, an effect I'd call "Historical Surrealism," since the truth is retained even though certain facts and events are mingled. The truth is distilled out of many into one, so that the fiction can be even more relevant, even in ways more accurate, than the sometimes more pedestrian realities. Many traits or qualities are fused into a single synecdoche.
The flaws of the agency as it now stands could easily bring down the country, from the inside, from our heavily spy-infiltrated electronic elections, all the way to a near complete ignorance of foreign languages, when compared to foreign intelligence agencies, thus putting us at great disadvantage with their powers.
That's just for starters, and all the damage that CIA has done as "premier" of the National Security State inaugurated by Harry Truman ( naming the first chief of CIA, Souers, out of St. Louis, Mo., and his vast intelligence experience running Piggly Wiggly supermarkets) merely at home, in its massaging of our domestic agencies with bad and covert BS, is only a drop in the ocean of wrong and woe it has done to others around the world, with assassinations and propped up petty tyrants, just to name two chronic pranks its famous for. Often their best defense has been our own ineptitude, and John Perkins explores much of the insider's viewpoint on this in "Confessions of an Economic Hitman."
See the film, and learn of the lameness, your children will thank you. Damon is surprisingly terrific, too, and all in all superbly directed, acted, scored, filmed. Top marks.
- Boring; long; complex.
There's an interesting and important story somewhere out there but this is not it. I haven't seen such stilted acting in a long time and a more convoluted story than this one. Now, I can do complex movies, such as Syriana, but this one takes the cake.
- DeNiro created something to talk and think about...
Everything was already told by other reviewers. Maybe you like the movie, maybe you hate it. Me, I watched it 3 times (2 in English, and 1 in Russian). The movie is definitely worth your time. My only complaint is the main character is TOO silent. Of course, he is a spy and all that, but he should talk sometimes. I hope, DeNiro will continue this story. ...more info
- Tedious yet realistic depiction of the birth of the CIA
I tried my hardest to fall in love with Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd." All the elements were there for a great film - fantastic material (the birth of the CIA and the Cold War), great cast, and more-than-ample budget. Unfortunately, the total is far less than the sum of its parts - and far more tedious.
Matt Damon plays Edward Wilson, privileged Yale undergraduate who gets inducted into America's least-secret secret society, Skull and Bones. Given this access to privilege, Wilson receives a unique opportunity - to get in on the ground floor of America's new secret service, the OSS (the forerunner of the CIA). Over the next few decades, Wilson will play a key part in the evolution of the Cold War.
This should be exciting stuff. Terrific authors have had loads of fun with the very same material - John Le Carre, Robert Littell, James Ellroy - and their novels are riveting page-turners. Thanks in large part to Damon's depiction of Wilson as an extremely cold fish, "The Good Shepherd" is largely an exercise in exposition and tedium. Events transpire, characters grow old or die young, and bitterness and recrimination stalk the land. Sometimes that works in a movie - this is not such an occasion.
Put "The Good Shepherd" on the shelf with the Great Missed Opportunities of recent years - movies that should have been terrific and yet failed to live up to expectations. ...more info
- For Sophisticated Tastes
This film will find a passionate audience among those looking for an intellectual, adult and intense experience. ...more info
- Intelligent, absorbing
A great movie. On the surface, it is about the founding of the CIA, going back to the OSS (WWII spy agency). At the core, it is about how someone losses their soul, bit by bit; and, lives a life less full than it could have been. I was surprised that I liked it, as I normally not very interested in spy movies. While there is some killing, it is not the focus of the movie; rather what is important is inner destruction. Effectively jumps around in time, which is something that I normally do not like; but well and usefully done here. Outstanding performances by everyone who has a speaking role, particularly Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie who give understated performances. There is a bit of background that was clearly shown, but might not be well understood: Yale University has a secret society called Skull & Bones; most of the early US spy aristocracy came from it, including the first President Bush....more info
- Yawn... is it over yet?
This is a very boring movie. Endless dialogue that leads to nowhere. The character development is poor. The plot is confusing and unrealistic. This is painful to watch... 2 hours and 48 minutes of agony on a screen....more info