Espionage flicks are the best. You get a big ‘ole dose of drama, a speck of thrilling action, a touch of violence and usually a dose or two of sex. But the best part of well thought out spy movie is that it forces us, the viewer, to try and figure out the story before it is completely told to us. It has been quite some time since a well thought out movie in this genre has surfaced — I wont count the latest James Bond movie, even though it is technically a spy movie (so please comment on any I’ve missed). It is because I love to critically think, that I so looked forward to The Good Shepherd.
This time around, the story revolves around Edward Wilson, a seemingly mild mannered guy, in the 1940s-1960s, as he learns his way through the spy game, ultimately anchoring the CIA and losing his family. Yeah, it’s been done before in some shape or form, but what sets The Good Shepherd apart from the others, is the story of the emotional and personal sacrifices given for God and Country. Trust no one — not your wife, best friends or children.
And to go along with the tale, Robert De Niro put himself together quite the cast of characters. Angelina Jolie, plays Margaret, aka Clover, a woman knocked up at an early age and married for sake of the child. She has a small role, but she actively captures the feelings of a woman scorned and left behind for a career. Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro, William Hurt and Michael Gambon play smaller, intricate roles that help shape the actions of the main character — Edward Wilson. Matt Damon, reprises his recent role of the quiet, introverted and innerly troubled man (see “The Departed” or any of the Bourne series). Luckily, he plays these characters well, his facial expressions and body movements tell all the story necessary that his vocal chords don’t.
The story is moves rather slowly and is told from repeated flashbacks jumping from the 1960s to the 1940s to the 1960s to the 1940s — you get the idea. It can and does get a tad confusing as there are a great many time switches to contend with. Another drawback is the length of time, The Good Shepherd runs over 2.5 hours! That’s a serious amount of time to tell a story, that has a lot of downtime while setting up for a twist. The movie also claims to be loosely based on the true story of the birth of the Central Intelligence Agency — something I’m not completely sold on, as I’m sure De Niro used a great deal of creative liberty in this story.
Without a doubt The Good Shepherd is a well told, intricately woven story. Those of us who like a thinking man’s movie will do good to see it. Those of you in the “I want it now generation” should avoid this movie for two reasons:
- Angelina Jolie doesn’t get naked and quite frankly, she doesn’t look particularly good here
- You’d be bored to death — there aren’t any wicked action sequences to get the blood pumping