Written by Eric Roth
Directed by Robert De Niro
Running Time: 2:51
for some violence, sexuality and language.
The Good Shepherd was a good, but not great, film that had a lot of confusing twists and turns.
Edward Wilson is recruited into what will become the CIA. After witnessing his father's suicide years earlier, Edward has decided that his country is his number one priority, forgoing his wife and son. He is placed overseas for years as an operative and quickly rises through the ranks. He is one of the men in charge of the Bay of Pigs invasion which goes horribly wrong. There is a mole within the group and Wilson is determined to find out who it is at all costs.
The Good Shepherd was billed as a look inside the start of the Central Intelligence Agency, but it was more the story of a very uptight man. Wilson was always a stand up guy, not willing to take crap from anyone but one who also followed the company line. He truly believed in his country and would do whatever he had to, to protect it. He accidentally gets a woman pregnant and does the 'right' thing by marrying her, but then immediately leaves the country for years. Upon his return, he is rarely interested in his family, even though his son completely adores him. For Wilson, it was all about his country, and nothing else mattered.
The movie itself wasn't bad, it was just way too long. At almost three hours, at least half and hour could have been cut out to make the movie flow a bit better. The other problem is the story got kind of confusing. Trying to figure out who was saying what, what was happening, who was a good guy and who was a bad guy got exhausting. It's not that the movie was badly made, it was more like the studio didn't want to tell Robert DeNiro his film was too long so they just let him do what he wanted. Someone needed to reign him in and tell him to streamline the story so it was more accessible.
Matt Damon lead a very strong cast which included Alec Baldwin, Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, Michael Gambon and many others. DeNiro did a fine job directing everyone and getting great performances out of them. He also did a good job setting the right mood for the film. I also noticed the music was very intense, sometimes too much so. You kept expecting something bad to happen every few minutes because the music would start to crescendo and then... nothing would happen. It felt at times like I was watching a horror film but not getting the payoff. I kept thinking maybe DeNiro couldn't decide whether he wanted the film to be a drama or a spy thriller, so he threw in elements of both. Unfortunately, that made the movie feel like a mishmash of genres rather than one. Personally, I felt as though it should have been more drama than thriller. Why not make the film a real story about the birth of the CIA? Use Edward Wilson as a jumping off point, but focus on other aspects of the CIA instead of just him. And why was there an entire story about his dating a deaf woman? If it had been used to show that she was his one true love and he let her get away, that's one thing, but as Damon portrayed him, Wilson didn't seem to show emotion for anything, let alone anyone. In fact, Wilson seemed to be extremely cold hearted when it came to the people in his life. I guess I just never really got into the characters enough to enjoy the film completely. I can appreciate the performances for certain, but it wasn't enough to make the movie compelling.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall I thought The Good Shepherd was a good film, but one that was too long and too confusing to be considered great. Strong acting performances helped the cause, but not enough to make it a must-see event.
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