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The Good Shepherd (2006) R 161 min

October 23rd, 2007 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 3,600 Views


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This is the story of creation of CIA through the eyes of one of the agents. Directed by Robert De Niro, his first attempt at directing since 1993 A Bronx Tale, and starring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, John Torturro, De Niro himself, Joe Pesci and others.

The film begins with the failed Bay of Pigs operation in 1961, then jumps back and forth in time between present and 1939, when then a Yale undergrad Edward Wilson, Matt Damon’s fictional character, joined the secret Scull and Bones society, then immediately jumps 20 years back when Edward discovered the body of his father, who committed suicide. The jumping around is not particularly confusing, but there’s no harmony to the way the story flows, which made me uncomfortable. Most characters were not developed. There’s no insight into Edward’s personality: only that he loves poetry, he’s patriotic and loyal.

Edward began his career in CIA with a exposing connection of his English Professor to Nazzis. He meets his first love at the Yale library, a deaf student Lora. Very soon, at the Bonesmen party, he is introduced to General Bill Sullivan (Robert De Niro) who was working in preparing US for WW-II, and also meets Clover/Margaret (Angelina Jolie) and knocks her up, then dutifully marries her. A week after the wedding, he has to leave for his CIA duties overseas. In London, in 1941 his wife called to tell that his son is born. Six years after he left home he came back to States. His son was 5 years old by then. Home felt foreign after such a long time. CIA needed his services again all over the world as the Cold War began.

In the end his limitless loyalty to the country and blind patriotism destroyed his life and his family.

After two and a half hours of this movie it was unclear what De Niro really wanted to say with this movie. Maybe that CIA often does some pretty gruesome and dirty things in the name of freedom and democracy. Maybe something about how deceptive governments can be when they cover their business with the fight for values or that everything goes as long as “the big picture” is for the better good. Or maybe it was about the legacies of fathers and sons. The Cold War chess game was quite interesting to watch. I thought Edward’s son, Edward Junior, was completely unattractive – perhaps it was director’s intention to suggest that marriage like Edward’s and Margaret’s cannot produce a beautiful child. I may be wrong, because several characters in the movie said that his boy is handsome. He did look a lot like Damon. He was spineless, weak and always looking for his father’s approval. I did not feel too bad about the real KGB general Mironov – that’s what happens to traitors. Nice background score by Marcelo Zarvos and Bruce Fowler. Nice sets and costumes too. All acting was great, particularly Angelina Jolie’s, Damon’s and Michael Gambon’s. Jolie’s role was mostly to be in pain every time Edward rejected her heroine, but the chemistry between them was great.

I liked this movie a lot, although it was too long and jumped around in time too much – if dates weren’t shown before every scene I’d be completely lost.

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Rated 4/5 on Oct 23 2007
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Tags: DVD · Drama · Movies

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Eugene // Oct 21, 2008 at 12:16 pm

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    Just saw this movie last night. Spot on review. I agree with you 100%.
    Really good movie. Would highly recommend to anyone …

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