The Good Shepherd (2006)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Genres: Drama, Period Film, Political Drama, Spy Film, Unglamorized Spy Film
Edward Wilson, the only witness to his father's suicide and member of the Skull and Bones Society while a student at Yale, is a morally upright young man who values honor and discretion, qualities that help him to be recruited for a career in the newly founded OSS. His dedication to his work does not come without a price though, leading him to sacrifice his ideals and eventually his family. --TMDb
Robert De Niro Robert De Niro
Matt Damon Matt Damon
Angelina Jolie Angelina Jolie
Alec Baldwin Alec Baldwin
Tammy Blanchard Tammy Blanchard
Billy Crudup Billy Crudup

6.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

* * * * *
Sign up to rate this movie.
Add to Collection
Sign up to add this to your collection
Add to Favorites
Sign up to add this to your favorites
Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 04, 2007
The whole of Hollywood is finally starting to realize the power of a skillful cast. Robert Altman knew it like no other, and utilized it to the best of his abilities in films such as "Short Cuts", "The Player" and "A Prairie Home Companion". He realized that, though the most recognizable actors are not always the best, there is a reason why they have achieved such success in film. Evidently, Robert De Niro understands this also. In "The Good Shepherd", we are hit over the head with a continuous stream of some of the best performers working today. Some are only in scenes that last as long as a trip to the bathroom - so don't get up, or you might just miss them. Some might argue that casting such heavyweights in minor roles might be more ego than anything else, but so what if it is? I would much rather see Billy Crudup in a role than Marc Blucas. De Niro is obviously an actor's director, and he has obviously amassed quite a few high profile friends over his long and illustrious acting career, and I suppose this film is their gift to him. Joe Pesci hasn't done a film since 1996, but he pops up to support his buddy Bobby De Niro, even if only for a short time. Alas, the film does not suffer because of the characters. It suffers from just being too damned mean.

The film follows the birth of the C.I.A. as told through the life story of Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), a Skull & Bones man who makes all the right friends and seems to have an uncanny ability to show zero emotion all the time. He meets and impregnates Margaret Russell (Angelina Jolie), the Senator's daughter, and is recruited by General Bill Sullivan (Robert De Niro) to join a covert organization overseas that will do some spying on the Germans and so forth, an organization that would eventually be called the Central Intelligence Agency. He is trained by a former poetry teacher (Michael Gambon), and befriends a British Intelligence officer (Billy Crudup) whilst performing his duties in Europe. When he returns to the States, six years older and having never met his son before, things are rather estranged at home. He is given a desk job under Philip Allen (William Hurt) and he soon starts performing tasks that we think of today as more C.I.A.-esque. Alec Baldwin stars as a fellow agent, Joe Pesci as a former mob boss, and the great John Turturro as Wilson's right hand man, who seemingly takes care of all the dirty work. The film cuts back and forth from flashbacks to present day, as Wilson and the rest of the C.I.A. try to figure out who sprung a leak about the 'Bay of Pigs' invasion in Cuba, that resulted in a botched invasion.

The film is set up very methodically, with great attention to detail. The construction of the film is just about flawless, and De Niro really layers the tone and the mood of the film. What he fails to do is allow his actors to explore any emotional range. The only characters that seem to show any emotional development are Angelina Jolie and Eddie Redmayne, as Edward's son. The rest of the characters are the same from beginning to end, and maybe that's the way De Niro wanted it - to showcase just how cold and calculating these men had to be. However, it was rather displeasing to see Matt Damon's character turn into such a pseudo-monster at the end of the film, and I can't think of a better term to use. We see how the C.I.A. has taken a toll on his personal life, with staggering consequences. We also see how he does nothing about this. Sure, his character loves America and is overly patriotic, but the man's priorities are obviously out of whack. "The Good Shepherd" was a brilliant film, and expertly crafted by De Niro, but it seems to be missing something of a heart and soul. There are no characters you really grow to care about in this film. We need that. When a film is so cold and mean, by nature, we need something to want to cling on to. Michael Gambon's character is really the only one, and let's just say we don't have long enough to spend with him.

As I mentioned earlier, De Niro is an actor's director, and that is evident here. De Niro crafts the performances of all of his actors, and Matt Damon's is the most obvious. Damon does nothing other than what De Niro likely instructed him to do, and I think the film suffers for it. Matt Damon is one of the best actors working today, and even this performance is a great one, but it is nowhere as good as it needs to be, especially when you realize that Damon is usually a performer with such emotion and such intensity - it's all wasted here. Maybe the character was suppose to be this way, but it doesn't make for enjoyable viewing. Most of the supporting cast here shines, as well, with the always entertaining John Turturro turning in the best performance of the film as Wilson's right hand man. Michael Gambon is flawless, as always, in yet another role that requires him to do what he does best - and that's sound smarter than you. William Hurt and Alec Baldwin really do what they always do here, but who can do it better? Joe Pesci has a fabulous two minute scenes, and he seems totally wasted, but it was so nice to see him again - we need him back...fast. Angelina Jolie is miscast here as Wilson's wife, as is Billy Crudup as a British officer, though he would have been far better without the dreadful accent. John Sessions turns in a strong performances as a Russian employee of the C.I.A., and Oleg Stefan is quite kinetic as the head of Russian intelligence.

This film is receiving my recommendation, and it is receiving a strong recommendation, but I did have a few problems with it that really hindered my enjoyment of the picture. Sometimes, I can look past those problems and still enjoy the film, but "The Good Shepherd" was just too cold for its own good. It didn't give me characters to care about. It didn't put those characters in situations that would cause my heart rate to increase. It didn't do anything but stay cold and mean and secretive. And, like I said before, that might have been precisely what De Niro was going for, and if that is the case, he has succeeded brilliantly. However, it's just not enough. A three hour investment needs to be peppered with something more, and "The Good Shepherd" lacked it. "The Departed" is an example of a film that just riddles with energy and development and characters we love to hate and hate to love. I recommend "The Good Shepherd" to all movie fans out there, but I warn you that you're not going to feel very nourished or fulfilled after having seen it. A true 'good shepherd' would tend to its flock and make sure all were taken care of. This flock - the audience - is released to fend for ourselves in a world where you have to be cold blooded to survive.

Sign up to add your comment. Sign up to add your comment.
Recommended Movies
Layout, reviews and code © 2000-2020 | Privacy Policy
Join us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Review Updates