The Good Shepherd


Action / Drama / History / Thriller


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Angelina Jolie as Margaret 'Clover' Russell
Eddie Redmayne as Edward Wilson Jr.
Matt Damon as Edward Wilson
Robert De Niro as Bill Sullivan
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1.00 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 47 min
P/S 4 / 26
2.20 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 47 min
P/S 9 / 21

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris Knipp 9 / 10

The spook who stayed in the cold: an epic critique of the American espionage game

A gray winter day was a fitting time to see one of the first public screenings of a film called "The Good Shepherd," whose chilly hero Edward Wilson (Matt Damon, in a role modeled in part on CIA founder, James Jesus Angleton) is not so much all things to all men as nobody to anybody. A composite figure in a portrait of the birth, rise, and moral shriveling of the American CIA, Matt Damon's disturbingly shut-down Wilson would be one of recent film's most tragic figures if he were not such a hollow, unappealing man. Directing a long-contemplated project using a screenplay by Eric Roth (who penned "Munich"), Robert De Niro has forged a "Godfather" of Yankee spy-craft, a heavy, solemn epic about betrayal and loyalty in the world of espionage and counter-espionage dominated not by Italians as in the original "Godfather," though Coppola produced, De Niro directed, and Joe Pesci has one of the liveliest on screen moments, but by uptight, stony, patrician WASPs.

Indeed as seen here the world of American intelligence is a privileged and exclusive and deeply conflicted one where Irish, blacks, and Italians need not apply; fathers are absent; privilege grows out of Skull and Bones at Yale, wives are betrayed; sons labor desperately to measure up, and the leading practitioners are ridden with guilt and suspicion. There is no one to trust and nothing to believe in – not family or tradition, or even music – only America, which Edward Wilson says belongs to his class. All others are just visiting.

Into this demoralizing story, damning in its picture of the world of white privilege and of intelligence itself but nonetheless intricately involving and at times genuinely disturbing, are woven some of the major incidents and personalities of the period from from before the Second World War – after which OSS morphed into CIA— till after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion under JFK, from hot war to cold war. You have Philbys and fake Russian turncoats, CIA execs siphoning off money to Switzerland in guise of chocolate boxes, and through it all you have a Cuba mole investigation that smashes Wilson's own family.

Wilson's true penchant was for a deaf girl named Laura (an excellent Tammy Blanchard); and with her is the only time Damon seems to develop human warmth. He is forced to marry the more elevated Margaret Russell (an uncomfortable Angelina Jolie) sister of one of his Skull and Bones colleagues who remains Wilson's Old Boy link to privilege ever after. Traumatic embarrassment, revelation of closest held secrets, and doubt of loyalty are seen as inborn elements of the espionage world. The very qualities that make a good spy, as seen here, also make a man untrustworthy.

Do spies ever have fun? Not much, as seen from the angle of Damon's character. Dr. Fredericks (Michael Gambon), a randy gay pseudo-intellectual who turns and turns again, is naughty, but he pays for it. Another Brit, Arch Cummings, played gamely by Billy Crudup, similarly wears a smile that turns to dust. A good professional of the lower ranks like Staff Sergeant Brocco (John Turturro), Wilson's OSS assistant in England, is a stern sadist whose use of LSD for an interrogation backfires fatally. Nasty sabotages are devised to spoil the left's Latin American agricultural schemes. Big foul-ups like the Bay of Pigs invasion lead to vicious internal purges. And through it all Wilson's son cringes and his wife pines; the marriage had dried up after his six-year absence during WWII; and his imploded selfhood is symbolized by his only hobby, building ships inside bottles. As the film bluntly puts it, the spy-master must choose either family or country; he can't have both. And is it all worth it? The Russian on LSD declares his country's armed might a myth perpetuated by America to justify its ongoing pursuit of world dominance. Is intelligence a needed quantity, or are its organizations self-perpetuating shams? The movie never gives a positive answer. This may be the cruelest picture of the spy game ever put on film.

Many fine actors play small unappealing roles as spy-masters or cold operatives. These include De Niro himself, Alec Baldwin, and William Hurt, all creditable, but unlikely to get Oscar nods for their tightly held back performances. Damon can be accused of the same limitation, though if his Wilson bothers you, he's done his job better than you may think. And young Eddie Redmayne, as Wilson's grown son, has one of the most gut-wrenching roles in a story notable for its devastating picture of the effects of career on family life.

Despite its epic scale and length (it's 160 minutes long), "The Good Shepherd" is more troubling than flashy, more thought-provoking than moving. Ultimately it may be somewhat an artistic failure. The criticism that it is either too long or too short, that it needed to be pared down or expanded to a mini-series, has some merit. But nonetheless as a work that considers big issues and asks big questions, it's one of the more serious and intellectually stimulating mainstream American films of the year.

Reviewed by Andre-148 8 / 10



The good shepherd is an excellent film. The reason this film was dubbed the "Godfather of spy movies" is because ala the "Godfather" De Niro uses real life situations involving the CIA and blends them together creating a story around the lead character played by Matt Damon. In addition,several great performances in character parts complement Damon's performance, notably Michael Gambon and John Turturro were both superb. You shouldn't view this film expecting to be blown out of your seats, it is deep, and requires strict attention to detail. My wife and I viewed this film in a packed movie house and we were very certain that half the people in the audience didn't understand or appreciate what they had just seen. I am not saying you need to be of great intellect to enjoy this film, but one of the things De Niro manages to do is bring back a thinking man's drama that is often not seen in today's attention deficit, shoot them up, bang – bang movies. This film makes it obvious that Directors Bertolucci and Leone have left a huge impression on De Niro and the result is a movie that both would be proud of.

Reviewed by ericjams 4 / 10

A Bloated, Boring, and unfortunately disappointing movie.

I wanted to like it, I really did. I bought my ticket for The Good Shepard solely based on a few trailers I saw in the fall....Damon, DeNiro, Pesci, Jolie...spies, the CIA, THE COLD WAR!!!!...this had to be good, or so I thought. Unfortunately, in one of the worst editing jobs I've ever seen, DeNiro lets this movie meander into a dismal abyss where the viewer begins to foretell the scenes and even the conclusion well before they happen.

First off, I must clear up a clear advertising ploy performed by the production house. This is not a movie about the birth of the CIA, its a biopic about a fictional character named Edward Wilson (Damon), loosely based on the life of the real CIA founder James Jesus Angleton. The trailers which make you excited to see Damon, Pesci, DeNiro, and Jolie share the screen are a fraud. Pesci has about a 3-minute cameo as a mob boss, and DeNiro stumbles (figuratively and literally) through 3 or 4 scenes as an Army general who recruits Damon and then guides him as the growth of counter intelligence and the Cold War occur simultaneously. Jolie plays second fiddle to Damon the entire movie. She holds her own at times, but the script more or less requires her to crawl into the shell of a marriage and life that her husband Damon makes for her. Its not a poor acting performance, but we are so used to seeing Jolie take over movies, that its almost painful to watch her hide behind Damon.

Onto the film -- Damon is excellent, and he draws fine supporting roles out of John Turturro and Micheal Gambon. The acting is the only saving grace of this movie. Im sure positive reviewers will touch open Damon's ability to hold the screen for 3 hours, and I concur he gives a strong performance as a man who is perhaps misunderstood, perhaps sheltered within his own moral-ism, but ultimately --boring. The life he partially chooses and is partially forced to chose is one of a supposed "higher purpose" and patriotism. The birth of the CIA is manifested by Wilson's ability to choose this patriotic life, and remain true to it in the face of serious conflicting decisions related to his friends, family, and overall morality. Some may call it stoicism, but Damon's portrayal of Wilson, which is intentionally designed to be wooden and singularly devoted to his career, sinks this movie. Its not that its not believable, its that its just not interesting. Wilson's personality is so obvious that the plot never takes on any intrigue because Wilson never waivers from his objectives and thus the plot lines become very predictable.

The first 45 minutes take you through the Yale years, the impregnation of Jolie, and Damon's stint as an intelligence officer in Britain during WWII. So far so good, but already you can see the developing themes: Damon & Jolie = the fraud of a marriage; Damon and Gambon (who serves as a his mentor) = internal betrayal, and the choice between protecting those close to you and serving the interests of the United States government.

The scenes that dominate the middle of this movie are not fluid and failed to perk my interest in the plot. People are promoted, but the viewer does not know why, people move to the Congo, but the viewer does not know why, people become turncoats, but no reason is given for their betrayals, instead you accept them as fact, hope for it all to tie in, and are disappointed when answers either fail to emerge or are predictable when they do.

In the end, the movie is disconnected. There is nothing left to hang your hat on. No great espionage scenes, no cinematic contributions to the spy genre as one may have thought, and very little if any historically significant commentary on what we all know is a time period and subject matter that lends itself to compelling theater.

Within the development of the CIA you see the fact that no one trusts anyone, but you only see brief snippets of true betrayal, or worse yet, the betrayals you do see can be forecast 1 hour before they happen. DeNiro has a bad habit of introducing an obvious problem into the plot, covering the problem up with 45 minutes of filler, and then letting it resurface, -- so you say to yourself, I forgot about that, but I saw it coming. Its no way to make a successful movie.

So with the CIA development and spy stories lacking in all respects, the movie turns back to the family and beats this plot line down over and over again until you just want Jolie to throw herself out of a window, much like some other people in the film and save both herself and the viewers the pain of watching the family continually devolve. In the end some choices must be made, but any half-minded viewer knows what will happen long before it does. Sure you can argue that there are a few twists, but after almost three hours, I was to numbed by sheer boredom to give much credit to any final hour plot twists. This is a boring movie, directed poorly, and acted wonderfully. Save it for a night with the girlfriend or wife when you want to fall asleep in each other's arms at home cause if anything it will serve as a good sleeping agent.

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