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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.54%
Worth A Look45.61%
Average: 22.81%
Pretty Bad: 7.02%
Total Crap: 7.02%

5 reviews, 27 user ratings

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Good Shepherd, The
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by William Goss

"The Spy Who Left Us In The Cold"
3 stars

The pet project of director Robert De Niro for about a decade, 'The Good Shepherd' takes nearly three hours to cover nearly three decades of the CIA’s early foundations, and while the result may be a mature and dense chronicle of the consequences of secrets and lies between governments and generations, the intricate subject matter never proves quite as rewarding as it likely is for De Niro.

During his years at Yale and soon after his acceptance into the elite Skull & Bones society, Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) isn’t asked to be a spy, of course, but to be a good citizen in his invitation to gather intelligence for a soon insatiable government. Wilson is a cold, deliberate being obedient only to logic and loyalty, an individual of sparse words and prudent actions – all discretion, no nonsense, and with the emotive range of a paperweight – and thus, the perfect candidate for a career stretching from WWII to the Bay of Pigs.

Damon has no trouble being just as stoic and staid as his trust-no-one lifestyle demands, but having such a detached protagonist makes his arc an unrewarding one for the viewer. Not helping matters is the complete and utter lack of aging of Wilson’s part from his twenties and thirties (perfectly reasonable) to a forty-something father with a grown son. Even minor appearances by Alec Baldwin and Joe Pesci attempt to display the passage of time properly, but Damon stays away from the spray-on gray, and it does hinder matters ever so slightly.

Likewise, Wilson’s loveless marriage of circumstance to Skull & Bones acquaintance Angelina Jolie, offers no heart, but only disdain for his persistently passive nature. Perhaps De Niro was itching to recapture whatever Shark Tale chemistry he felt Jolie brought to her animated role, but she simply gets to throw the occasional tantrum over the fact that the husband she doesn’t love is also the absentee father of their sullen son. Like Billy Crudup in a role as a British ally, she is underused enough (and he, misplaced enough) to be easily substituted for a better performer. Fortunately, proper use is made out of Michael Gambon, William Hurt, and John Turturro in their supporting roles as colleagues of Wilson’s.

De Niro himself makes an occasional appearance himself as a diabetic general that initially calls for the creation of the CIA, and as he loses additional limbs with each arrival, his role serves as a reverse hangman with which to count down reels. Behind the camera, however, he makes every effort to make his world of necks breathed down and shoulders glanced over as nimble as possible, although a choir of children singing “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” as Wilson makes a third-act museum rendezvous lacks a certain subtlety.

In the end, De Niro subscribes to the belief of his own character, that the CIA should be “America’s eyes and ears, not its heart and soul,” and his subsequent approach is equivalent to Wilson’s hobby of placing a ship in a bottle: it takes considerate skill and an admirable level of detail to bring such an involved article of history to life, but it only stands to be appreciated from behind a layer of glass. 'Shepherd' becomes a depiction of governments devoured by their own deceptions and an eventual sense of nihilism, a marginally intriguing but ultimately mundane chronicle of the moment when the serpent got the first taste of its own tail.

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originally posted: 12/26/06 18:50:53
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell boring 1 stars
1/08/09 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
7/25/08 mr.mike Good, save for the America hater pleasing interrogation scene. 4 stars
4/29/08 mb Interesting 3 stars
3/01/08 Dave This film needs a major makeover...don't bother to see it. 2 stars
11/27/07 Heywood Jablowme booooring. too long, too slow. 2 stars
8/17/07 P aul Benning A great movie - thought provoking and interesting! 5 stars
8/10/07 p wats awesome film best in the casting never seen anything better.. thanks 5 stars
6/26/07 Taylor Fladgate C'mon...move it along, I'm falling asleep here! What a great cast though. 3 stars
6/13/07 R.W. Welch Keyed a shade low; still an intriguing look at Spookville. 4 stars
5/15/07 Tracey Chambers get to the point already before I open a vein 2 stars
5/12/07 Indrid Cold Yeah it's smart, well acted, etc. It's also excruciatingly dreary and boring. 3 stars
4/30/07 Monday Morning Hey De Niro, stick to acting or learn to edit. TV shows do this better in an hour. 3 stars
4/16/07 ad a bit lengthy but in some ways better than the departed 4 stars
4/08/07 fools♫gold As unrate-able as "Limbo" and/or "Undertow" ... Forget my rating: see it. 4 stars
4/06/07 Phil M. Aficionado Peter Sobczynski's review is right on the money. A film worth seeing overall 4 stars
3/07/07 BertRito A complete mess. A film about spies without any intrigue. Watch The Departed again instead. 1 stars
3/01/07 MP Bartley Damon is superb and such ambition from DeNiro is laudable...but I just didn't care about it 3 stars
1/13/07 Koitus Exactly WHY was the J. Pesci needed?!? Too long; questionable underlying plot, too. 3 stars
1/02/07 Zaw Complicated, some parts drags on too long. Just get the damn point across! 2 stars
1/02/07 Jonathan Dolnier Overrated and convoluted but not a bad movie. 3 stars
1/02/07 Ken S I have seen it 3 times. A superb movie. Not a beer and pretzels film. Highly intellectual. 5 stars
1/01/07 Myra C Good acting, plot confusing at times. 4 stars
12/28/06 Dylan Stewart Kubrik on ludes. Terrible movie. 1 stars
12/28/06 Agent Sands De Niro is possibly one of the finest directors of the past half century. 5 stars
12/25/06 Sig Alman Good See the Movie 4 stars
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  22-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 03-Apr-2007



Directed by
  Robert De Niro

Written by
  Eric Roth

  Matt Damon
  Angelina Jolie
  William Hurt
  John Turturro
  Robert De Niro
  Alec Baldwin

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