The Good Shepherd (2006) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
505 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
9/10
Finally a film that doesn't assume you're an idiot
deanmasters28 December 2006
After enduring trailer after trailer with endless stings of explosions, ridiculous CG-assisted stunts and mindless action, I felt very rewarded with an intelligent and intriguing film that defies the status quo of bigger and louder is better.

The Good Sheperd doesn't insult your intelligence, it stimulates it, sometimes confuses it, and forces you to look several layers beneath the surface. It feels like a throwback to another era of films when the complexity of a character was of greater importance than spectacle.

De Niro took a page from his producer's best work, Francis Ford Coppola, emulating films like The Godfather, The Conversation and Apacalypse Now. The drama rises not from the usual blatant conventional devices but rather by raising questions because of what we're not told and not shown. It requires a great deal of courage to use this style as films have gravitated more and more toward assuming the average moviegoer is of substandard intelligence. The scope of the film is enormous, yet the point of view is narrowly focused to be seen through the eyes of one man. There are a dozen of subplots, but all are carefully tied into the through-line of the story to match the main character's progression.

The film may require some understanding of American history from WWII through the Kennedy administration. It starts with the later years of the story, The Bay of Pigs debacle, and traces the steps that lead to it, one of the more embarrassing moments in the history of U.S. foreign policy. I found it a bit annoying that Matt Damon's character, Edward Wilson, barely seemed to age in the film while others around him did (the best way to determine his age is whether he's wearing wire-rimmed or horn-rimmed glasses), but it didn't ruin the film for me.

Overall though, definitely one of the best films of 2006. A rare film that makes you want to think and understand, rather than forget.
407 out of 502 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
An incredibly complex work and one of 06's finest...
HhH4308924 December 2006
The Good Shepherd 3.5/4 4/5

The Good Shepherd is an incredibly complex work and one of the finest films of a quality ripe 2006. Oscar winner Eric Roth continues his brilliant work with this original screenplay, named one of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood in the late 90's. A film about one of the CIA's founding officers isn't a dream project commercially for a studio but thankfully, the quality of the script was too great to ignore.

Shepherd follows the life of Edward Wilson (Damon) through his college years at Yale to his ascension as one of the CIA's founding officers and trusted veterans. His extraordinary dedication to his work comes with an unbearable price as he must sacrifice his family to protect his country. At one point in the film, Wilson faces an enormous choice- does he abandon his ideals for what he believes is right? Would this abandonment render his life, almost solely devoted to his country, meaningless? This, as well as a depiction of the result of Wilson's decision, are just two of the moments of brilliance in The Good Shepherd.

Wilson inhabits a world of betrayal and secrecies only enhancing the irony of the biblical quote inscribed on the CIA's wall- "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free". While we are given a glimpse into the life of a younger, more vital Wilson, the world he occupies creates the characteristically stolid, humorless man we come to know.

With its vast emotional core, the film seemingly effortlessly navigates one of the most volatile periods in the history of American intelligence while remaining character based. At 165 minutes, it is overlong but remains engaging for the vast majority of its running time. Had a few relatively insignificant scenes been cut, Shepherd could have retained the thrilling and energetic pace it often possesses. However, the length is justifiable as the scope of the film is incredibly large and very few scenes can be deemed unnecessary or dull.

Robert DeNiro's direction far exceeds that in his debut, 1993's "A Bronx Tale". Normally portrayed as a brute, here, DeNiro assuredly handles every moment with an innate tenderness we rarely see in his work. He appropriately treats Shepherd with a precise attention to detail often attributed to some of the greatest directors of our time.

A silently haunting Matt Damon carries the film on his shoulders. Edward Wilson is completely introverted and while Damon internalizes his thoughts, some of the films greatest moments are when emotion unknowingly pours out of Wilson through a mere flicker in his eyes. Angelina Jolie and Michael Gambon deliver very strong turns amidst a one of a kind cast topped off by the return of Joe Pesci, whose last acting stint was 1998's "Lethal Weapon 4".

The Good Shepherd is a film that demands to be seen. It is surprisingly apolitical as Wilson's life and its disintegration are the true story of this epic. While some call it "unsentimental", exactly the opposite is true. It is a testament to Roth's script that a film with such an introverted protagonist provides such a visceral, affecting experience. Shepherd is an intelligent, poignant look at the cost of blind dedication and constant secrecy. The effect this has on Wilson's life is irrevocable as we are taken on a remarkable cinematic journey, one that should be remembered as one of 06's greatest.
282 out of 365 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
The spook who stayed in the cold: an epic critique of the American espionage game
Chris Knipp22 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
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.
332 out of 432 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
For the patient, a rewarding ride
Rooster98 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I can't vouch for how much truth can be found in "The Good Shepherd." After all, how much can you really know about an organization that deals in lies? But I do know that Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) is the perfect, duty-bound man of privilege -- born in the north east, bred in the Ivy League, lured into a secret society of cocky heirs to American industry, and made into a man feared by others only because he, himself, feared his superiors.

And even though Edward never truly existed, he managed to turn a cloak-and-dagger fraternity into a megalomaniacal arm of the government. And while the CIA was never intended to become the "heart and soul" of America, Edward helps to make it just that... while losing his own soul in the process. But the greatest irony of them all, is that Edward never wanted any of it. Like the heir to a dynasty, Edward was chosen from among the young elite, molded and coerced his entire life, as if the great machinary of America's powerful few knew he would be the perfect cog. And he was.

This is what "The Good Shepherd" does best. It creates an intriguing, tragic story worth telling, with no small help from the legacy of "The Godfather" series. Director Rober DeNiro channels Francs Ford Coppolla right down to the operatic, dual-story ending. The grave tone and slow escalation of this thriller may seem like a slow burn, but it's ultimately worth the fire, even if it does leave you craving a bit of Hitchcockian suspense (a couple of punch-ups from the oft-maligned Brian DePalma couldn't have hurt). But the subtle, dead-on acting from Damon will ground you. In the end, Edward is confronted by the responsibilities of duty and loyalty to family. And it's wonderful to see Damon take two "Godfather"'s worth of psychological burden and prove that he has the talent and strength to shoulder it.

On the other hand, the film suffers from a few bouts of contrived and melodramatic dialogue (mostly heaped upon the film's two, underwritten, female leads and on DeNiro's mugging cameo). And it's easy to get lost in the second act, during several mysteries about Russian spies and the Bay of Pigs invasion. With some sharper editing, the story could have been tighter and more focused early on. The more we drift away from Damon's central character, the more the story wanders. As it is, much of the story's intensity falls on the film's final act. But what an act it is.

The final twenty minutes comprise "The Good Shepherd"'s emotional and thematic backbone. For some audience members, it might come a little too late... after two hours of serpentine plotting, deliberate pacing and extensive backstory. But, for patient viewers, the slow burn will be worth it.
153 out of 197 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Excellent
Andre-1482 January 2007
Excellent.

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.
180 out of 234 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
We are all boot-makers to kings.
tccandler6 April 2007
"The mental facility to detect conspiracies and betrayal are the same qualities most likely to corrode natural judgment." Almost every year, there is one great film that slips under my radar. I usually wait for it to hit DVD because it keeps getting passed over for other films I'd rather watch. However, when I finally get around to seeing it, I wonder to myself how I ever let it pass me by.

In 2006, that film is Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd". Here is a cinematic gem that hits all the right notes. It is a study in detail. It is a master-class in mood and tone and style. This movie is a fascinating character study and a riveting story of trust, loyalty and betrayal -- both personally and politically.

Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) is a gifted young man whose keen intellect and sharp observational skills soon catch the attentions of some important people. While attending Yale University, Edward is recruited into the uber-secretive college society known as the Skull and Bones. During the initiation ritual, he is asked to recount a secret that he has never before revealed -- a pledge of trust and brotherhood. He describes his father's suicide as a result of being a disgraced naval officer.

The FBI becomes aware of Edward's abilities. His encounter with a poetry professor only serves to expedite his venture into the world of espionage.

Edward's ties to that secretive community cost him his first love, Laura, a beautiful young deaf girl with a heart of gold and a pure spirit. Instead, a relationship seems forced upon him with Clover (Angelina Jolie), sister to one of his fraternity colleagues. An unplanned pregnancy rushes along the marriage plans. It becomes a loveless relationship between strangers.

The film follows Edward's life, shifting between the 1940's and the 1960's, counterbalancing the eager early loyalty with the paranoid, lonely and resentful man he becomes later in life. "The Good Shepherd" is a finite analysis of a man who knows what the important things in life are (family, love, friendship, parenting), but substitutes them for patriotism and duty -- perhaps as a way of restoring his father's honor.

What De Niro does so well is to patiently, rather microscopically, dissect Edward's life in the world of intelligence. Every detail of this man's soul is laid bare for us to see. It allows the viewer to respect and pity him at the same time. It is probably the greatest cinematic exploration of espionage ever made. We are privy to this character's very core.

Consider the multiple virtuoso sequences in which the CIA lab technicians systematically analyze a fuzzy black & white photograph in conjunction with a low grade audio tape. It is a fascinating study in detail that serves as a microcosm to the entire movie. De Niro's legendary attention to the details of his portrayed characters has quite obviously transferred to his directing. Everything of value in "The Good Shepherd" lays in the subtle moments... the momentary glances... the uncomfortable silences... the verbal hints and clues.

Also note the fabulous exchange in a covert London counter-intelligence office between Matt Damon and John Turturro. It is a fantastic exercise in screen writing, rapid rhythmic delivery and understated, yet mesmerizing, acting. It was wonderful to watch the "Rounders" duo reunite and square off with some great dialogue once again.

This may be De Niro's epic creation, but in terms of acting, this is Matt Damon's film. What he achieves here is nothing short of... well, nothing short of De Niro at his very best. Damon picks the bones of his character clean. It is a performance that establishes him as one of the greats of a generation. None of his contemporary peers can carry the face of solemnity and gravitas quite as powerfully as he. This role is Damon's "Raging Bull"... albeit a quiet rage. This is the best performance of 2006... from either sex.

There are many fine supporting roles on display. Most noteworthy are the turns by Alec Baldwin as the all-knowing FBI agent, Tammy Blanchard as Edward's regrettably lost first love, and Michael Gambon as the wise professor who has been in the game too long. It was also a welcome sight to see Joe Pesci in a feature film for the first time in a long while. The entire cast is first rate -- an obvious sign that De Niro knows how to cast a film with actors as precise as he.

This film truly captures how lonely it must be to work in the intelligence community, especially at that time. Half way through the film, Edward receives the news that his first son has been born. The resulting phone call to his wife is interrupted by air-raid sirens and horrible static. His wife asks if he is busy saving the world. He replies, "Sometimes. What color are his eyes?" When the line is cut off before she answers, we empathize with Edward's decision to sacrifice his own happiness for the good of his ungrateful government.

When Edward unexpectedly runs into Laura, some years after their college romance, she confesses that she often wonders what life would have been like had they stayed together. It is a poignant scene, filled with regrets of what might have been.

I watched two other films in the past week that were within touching distance of greatness. "The Painted Veil" and "Goya's Ghosts" were both in need of a little more patience -- maybe they were afraid to go much beyond the two hour mark for fear of being commercially unviable. At two hours and forty-five minutes, "The Good Shepherd" goes the extra mile, resulting in a complete filmgoing experience. Quite frankly, it is an unassailable masterpiece.

TC Candler IndependentCritics.com.
48 out of 61 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Remarkable
Whistler7181 January 2007
I wasn't sure that a movie like this could or would still be made and released in this country.

No, it wasn't Mission Impossible 6. It didn't have the overwhelming special effects, chases, explosions and gunfights one might expect in a spy thriller. It didn't need them. Thrilling enough was the exposition of character (imagine that). Plot? Whose real life has ever had a tight plot line? Edward Wilson's life meandered along like many do. In fact, I found it even more interesting because the turns Wilson's life took seemed dictated by his character and not just by his chosen profession.

Courageous choices were made by DeNiro in making this film, by Damon in tackling the role with such coldness and stoicism, and by Jolie in passing on being a movie star in favor of being an actress.
117 out of 158 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
An intelligent tale of duty and loyalty
leftie_imw1 January 2007
I went into the theatre with little knowledge but that I was going to be watching a film about a man who was one of the founders of the CIA. Expecting this, I thought this movie was outstanding and a mind game from start to finish.

What one has to understand about the movie itself is that it is as complicated as the storyline. It starts out with two different time lines, decades apart and slowly one reaches the other. That in itself can be difficult to follow, but it is well worth the effort to pay attention because if you can leave the theatre understanding what took place, you walk away with a little more knowledge about the human complex.

Because this is a story more about the soul and our humanity than it is about spies and country. Those are just the means by which De Niro uses.

Every actor is placed remarkably well and no more so than Matt Damon himself. It is his acting that gives us Edward Wilson; a man without airs who doesn't compromise. The movie spans over twenty years and fortunately we see those years reflected in most of the characters. Angelina Jolie does the neglected, alcoholic wife superbly. William Hurt and Lee Pace as Richard Hayes both give a wonderful performance taking their character's flaws from subtle to substantial by the end.

Some might wonder how so many actors could be recruited for such small roles, like Alec Baldwin, Michael Gambon, and Joe Pesci, but one only has to see as far as the director to get their answer. Don't let the big names and the anagram CIA get you. This movie is as edgy as it is intricate with twists and turns that take the viewer through the world of trust and the human element. A man like Edward Wilson is just the perfect vessel for the journey.
102 out of 138 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
The murky world of CIA deception as seen by one family man...
Doylenf24 December 2006
Before I go on to praise the good points of THE GOOD SHEPHERD, I should mention at the start that the film badly needed some judicious editing. There are many scenes that go on for too long a time and are badly in need of some artful editing to get the point across just as well.

Aside from length, everything else about the film is on the plus side--the handsome cinematography, the vast amount of settings, the background score that adds to the drama, and the performances of the entire cast which are uniformly good. I'm not a great admirer of ANGELINA JOLIE as an actress, but here I think she demonstrated skill at suggesting the loneliness, frustrations and jealousies of a woman whose life has to remain outside the boundaries of her husband's job with the CIA. Through a series of detailed vignettes, the murky world of an agent's life of deception within the government is sharply observed.

More of a character study of Edward Wilson (played in stolid, very serious fashion by MATT DAMON) than a straightforward spy yarn, it manages to hold the interest even though it uses the flashback method of storytelling that is apt to confuse a viewer if it isn't done well. But here again, there is a flaw--it covers a span of twenty or more years but the aging of the central character is never quite convincing enough. Damon never looks that much older than his grown son--whereas a few gray hairs might have helped considerably. As his grown son, EDDIE REDMAYNE does reasonably well as the man seeking his father's approval.

As for the supporting players in this story about one man's experiences in the newly developing CIA, JOHN TURTURRO does an outstanding job as a tough inquisitor and MICHAEL GAMBON is outstanding as a security risk with homosexual tendencies. ALEC BALDWIN has little to do but is intense enough as one of the agency's top men and others in the cast maintain credibility all the way through.

The story itself is rather problematic in that nothing is what it seems and not all the information is readily given to the viewer in a way that makes sense. This is partly the fault of the script and partly the fault of director Robert De Niro who also assumes a small role effectively.

But still, despite the handicap of being too long (and a bit too involved at certain points), it makes for fascinating viewing and is the kind of film you dare not divert your attention from for a moment. If you do, you are liable to miss an essential plot point.

Summing up: Highly recommended for anyone with a keen interest in espionage dramas.
140 out of 196 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Great Intense Movie
kajmel14 December 2006
If you're out to see a movie soon, this is one that should be on the top of your list. An all-star cast and an intriguing story isn't all that this movie has. It has some great performances from both Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie that are likely to get some award nominations.

I won't give any spoilers, I'll just give my background and overall opinion. When I saw the commercials, I thought it seemed interesting, but not interesting enough to get me out of my seat right now to go see it. It just didn't seem to have anything totally different than other movies, other than the combination of actors. Since I just got to see it anyway, I realized that it's one of those movies that ends up being better than you think it would be.

Matt Damon, as always, plays a good serious guy who's smart, savvy, and dedicated to his job. It kind of reminded me of his characters in The Departed and the Bourne Identity, except it's in a different situation and setting. His performance in this role was very fitting and believable.

Angelina Jolie surprisingly worked well with this role. In the commercials I thought she was a little too wild compared to Matt Damon's calm character, but she really brought out the emotion of a wife who felt shut out and didn't have a complete relationship with and understanding of her husband.

Robert DeNiro of course was great. It was a nicely added touch to an already good movie.

While I wouldn't say it's as factual as the History Channel, I think the subject of the movie does put good insight on the history of the CIA. I think people who are into government/politics and history would like the storyline. It does focus quite a bit on his family relationship and how it is affected by his job in the CIA, and I'm sure any couple who has been in a similar situation would understand it.

Overall, the movie was better than I thought and I would recommend it to movie-goers, especially those who like suspense and any of the main characters.
220 out of 328 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Disappointing
TotallyUniqueTime23 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I went in this one really wanting to like it. What an incredible concept! But the film just didn't do a thing for me.

Firstly, I find it hard to suspend my disbelief to buy Matt Damon as a 20 year-old college junior. He was just plain old 34 year-old Matt. THEN six years later, he has a son and talks to him on overseas long distance and Matt looks exactly the same except he has changed his eyeglass frames...he is supposed 26 yet still looks 34. THEN, fifteen years later, Matt has changed his eyeglass frames again but now his son is 20 years-old and Matt is STILL only 34. When these two are together as father and son, it just kills any other aspect of what the story is attempting to tell us because NO ONE can buy into Matt Damon's son only being 14 years younger than himself.

The least DeNiro could have done was to put a little grey hair at Matt's temples or buy him a different suit of clothes. In a film full of flashbacks covering a 22 year period, it is vital to make your characters age and progress through life.

Oh yeah, I absolutely COULD NOT buy Angelina Jolie as a 20 year-old debutante. And the most frequent comment I heard in the lobby following the film was observations about Matt and Angelina's gay son with the deformed giant upper lip...very distracting and horrible casting on the grown son actor.

But putting the casting aside, the thread that unites the tale into a whole and pulls along to the conclusion of the story is totally nonexistent. Sure, I saw some of the old fabled myths of CIA lore stabbed at rather listlessly like the LSD-25 scene. Actually, the LSD suicide via window jumping was supposedly a CIA agent and not a Soviet operative. And the whole planting of locusts in South America by the CIA in order to foil the Zapatistas politico/economic strategy has pretty much been discredited over the years. But this IS, after all, a fanciful telling of a single person's vantage of the period so I guess it is not that important.

But there were incredibly disjointed scenes that did nothing for the story and barely did anything for character development. For instance, Joe Pesci appearing for several minutes of noncontributing story points just so Matt Damon's character can say, "America, the rest of you are just visiting" was a waste of time and illuminated nothing about Cuba, the Mob or the CIA's relationship with the Mob. Or why is Matt's son in Africa hooking up with black girls? Is Matt's son supposed to be a CIA agent at that point? Is he giving up dirty tricks to the other side? What did he do with the information he overheard in the bath tub? Was he still just a college boy? You really cannot nail down time periods regarding the son because he ages even less than his parents once he becomes an adult.

And a most irritating bit of prop management is it appears that Matt Damon's character wore the same trench coat and hat from 1939 to 1961. I am sure they were of the highest quality but I just don't see these items being worn every single business day for over twenty years and still looking serviceable.

Like I said, I really wanted to enjoy this movie but after three hours of my life sitting there waiting for the big reveal, it just ended. I cannot recommend this one to friends unless they are willing to wait for DVD rental or, better yet, HBO release. Sorry.
148 out of 220 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Lack of Compelling Storyline Sinks This Masterpiece Manquee
Danusha_Goska24 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"The Good Shepered" is excellent in so many ways it will frustrate viewers hungry for intelligent, adult film-making.

Matt Damon gives an unforgettable performance as the very cold American spy Edward Wilson.

Wilson makes Mr. Spock look like Zorba the Greek. Damon faced the same challenge that actors who play corpses face. I think he flashes his Matt Damon grin exactly once in the film's entire two-hour-plus runtime. Damon can simulate sex with Angelina Jolie without a flicker of heat melting one feature of his frozen face. This man may be the solution to Global Warming.

John Turturro crackles as an Italian American who verbally jousts with Yale snob Wilson when they first meet. Joe Pesci is a completely believable Mafia boss in one brief scene and in one brief observation about ethnicity in America. Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Robert De Niro and Michael Gambon are solid gold, as ever.

Billy Crudup is scrupulously refined, and deadly, as a Kim Philby-like traitor. Tammy Blanchard is poignant as a deaf woman who truly loves. Eddy Redmayne is even more poignant as a sheep among wolves; I wanted to rush on screen and rescue him.

Angelina Jolie is a famous celebrity; you see her face on supermarket tabloids a lot. Whenever she appears on screen here as an obedient, frustrated wife, you think to yourself, "But, Angelina would never do that." And that's the problem with her "acting." The production values are sky high. You've got your vintage cars, your recreation of Skull and Bones retreats. You've got big issues: imperialism, espionage, the price of victory, loyalty, betrayal.

What you don't have is story. We care about movies, plays, and novels, and they get us to think about big ideas, because there is a story there, a boat, to glide us over everything else -- the characters, the details, the historical lessons.

Robert De Niro may be an artist, but he isn't, not in this movie, anyway, a story teller. You sense this right away. The first few scenes are a disconnected jumble. You really have to struggle to find a thread to follow.

The movie doesn't give us anyone to like or root for, or any tragedy to mourn. The movie doesn't know the answer to one key question: did Edward start out so cold, and did circumstance exploit his coldness, or did his life as a spy, to which he was recruited by more powerful others, make him cold? Compare this movie to masterpieces like "Lawrence of Arabia" or "The Searchers." Like "Shepherd," these films depict disturbed characters acting out their part against huge historical canvases. The key difference: both these films start and end with story, and were made by master storytellers. They don't ask you to *think* about imperialism or racism or destiny until they've seduced you to *care* about, and identify with, Lawrence, or Ethan.

"The Good Shepherd" wants to throw a lot of essay material at you: privilege, power, war -- and it rejects your involvement as callously as the main character himself rejects someone who loves him.

As much as this movie wants to be an intelligent movie, its choice to reject story and character as primary, and cogitation as only, ever the fruit of story, was ultimately, not very intelligent.
153 out of 230 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Know In Advance This Is Not An Action Film, And Then Sit Back & Enjoy It
ccthemovieman-115 April 2007
I had a huge advantage before watching this on DVD. I was told by a good friend that it was extremely slow, and be prepared to be bored out of "my mind." Well, I wasn't bored, maybe because I now expected a slower, non-action-packed CIA-type film....and I wasn't disappointed. Actually, I liked it, mainly because of the cinematography. This is stunning in its photography. Kudos to Director Robert De Niro and Director of Photography Robert Richardson for their work in here.

I also appreciated the low profanity in here. After watching "The Departed," this far-cleaner film was a treat for the ears, too. Yes, there are a handful of 'f-words," but not much else including no blasphemy.

But, I agree that this is a very slow film and it helps to know that in advance. It's also one you have to follow closely and time periods shift back and forth, mainly from 1961 back to the early 1940s.

The story winds up presenting an interesting question which is posed to Matt Damon's character, "Edward Wilson." He plays an extremely loyal CIA man, a guy who is straight-arrow and one whose priority is country-first. The dilemma occurs at the end when he must choose between what's best for his son or his country.

It's a thought-out, interesting story that takes a few sides to the left of center more than the right, but is not really a movie with any heavy-handed political agenda, mainly pointing out what it takes to be a successful "spy" and that this unemotional detachment can be rough on some people and their families.

Damon heads an all-star cast that includes Angeline Jolie (who looks spectacular as a woman in the early 1940s), Billy Crudup, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton and many others.

This movie, I suspect, will either put you to sleep or fascinate you.
75 out of 110 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Not for the dim or distracted, an outstanding film.
dhingrammd30 December 2006
Not for the dim or distracted, this outstanding trans-generational exploration of father/son paranoia and betrayal fueled by unresolved oedipal turmoil takes us on a historical tour of US Intelligence from the OSS of World War II to the Bay of Pigs. Acting, editing and directing are all superb. The characters are complex and vital, and the relationships textured.

No narrative spoon-feeding here. The viewer shares in the protagonist's bewilderment of who's who and what's what, which may be more than the viewer bargained for. If a second screening is needed to sort out the nuance of it all, consider it well worth the cost of the ticket. -Doug
82 out of 122 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
A Bloated, Boring, and unfortunately disappointing movie.
ericjams29 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
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.
335 out of 536 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Confusing and intriguing
Lmiklowitz26 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The movie jumps back and forth in time periods. Sometimes we're lucky enough to get a TV image of President Kennedy in the Cuban Missle Crisis to know that we've suddenly entered the time-warp from the 1940s to 1961. Other times, there is no such clue such as a jump of probably a few hours or days such as when a perfidious German woman assistant gets her just reward. We don't know whether to dispatch those assassins with silencers on their pistols after the screenplay writer or the film editor.

The scope of the film, while seeming grand at first as it sweeps quarter century, turns out to be rather microcosmic with a series of vignettes instead of a unified story line. The focus remains mainly on the effect of the cloak and dagger on one man, Edward Wilson Sr., and his wife and son and the conflict of loyalties to country and family. Since the account is fictionalized history, we're not sure what to accept as biography and history as we watch the homo-erotic, cross-dressing elite WASPy Yale camaraderie turn into boys playing with big toys and geopolitics. Wilson, apparently pattered after James Jesus Angleton, is bred to elitism and public service from childhood and matriculates to Yale in the late 1930s to make the necessary career connections.

The good shepherd lays down his life for his flock, according to a parable of Jesus. After Allies win World War II, wartime intelligence, among them the fictional Wilson and his classmates, continue their work as shepherds to keep the Free World free, or at least a reasonable facsimile.

"Central Intelligence Agency" consumes their lives as did their Yale secret society "Skull and Bones," which reportedly has the loyalties of Presidents Bush 41 and 43 and Sen. John Kerry, among other government and business leaders. Why isn't "the" used with the name of the agency? We're told it is because "the" isn't used for God either.

The film is nonetheless interesting for its strong acting by the studied taciturnity of Matt Damon and the effete professor Michael Gambon with a secret life. The ethnic portrayals add some color to the white bread. Director Robert DeNiro mugs in a role reminiscent of "Wild Bill" Donovan, a lone Catholic wary of recruiting others for agency. Joe Pesci is, what else?, the Italian mobster in Florida. John Tuturro is the street-smart Italian army sergeant Ray Brocco, who follows Wilson to the CIA to bruise his knuckles as an interrogator. Angela Jolie transforms from a lusty patrician daughter looking for husband material among her brother's Yalie classmates to a long-suffering wife in pearls. Alec Baldwin is the ubiquitous G-man in trench-cost.

There are a number of lesser-known actors in the ensemble who were superb like Laura (Tammy Blanchard), the deaf woman at Yale who is the only one who brings out love from Edward Wilson Sr. Mark Ivanir and John Sessions as dueling defectors were especially memorable as was Oleg Stefan as Wilson's Soviet counterpart.
34 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
This movie oversteps the 'dramatic license' allowance
jimojimo29 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Coupla things (no pun on Francis-Ford intended) about this movie. (spoilersbelow)

First, some minor details that bugged me--things that really violated what I consider to be reasonable dramatic license in plot lines or scenes, (not in order of seriousness): 1. The photos of Wilson in the cab during his brief affair with the deaf woman. That fling was a completely spontaneous thing, and his meetings with the Ulysses guy (after which that fling followed) would have been scheduled in utter secrecy. So how would someone have been following him to get these photos? Even if it were the Russians--who would have known of the meeting through Ulysses--they would have gained little or nothing from trying to meddle in his personal dealings with his wife. They're not after that kind of dirt on him, and risking blowing their cover by giving her the photos would be like the FBI blowing their cover on a years-long sting operation by giving their quarry a traffic ticket. It made no sense. And Angelina Jolie's character wouldn't have had him followed--first, I don't think she really cared that much, and besides--he's the top spy--he wouldn't have been found out by some second-rate private-eye.

2. Her (Angelina Jolie's) reaction to his affair was way, way out of line with her character. She'd already admitted she had an affair, and he was basically an absentee husband and father, they both knew the marriage was utterly baseless. So why would she be so upset? She said she was 'humiliated'. How? Nobody else knew about the photos but her. Why make a scene like she did--that's the only thing that humiliated her.

3. The thing with the son and that girl was so far out of sync with any reality that it really ruined the whole movie for me. First, I'd guessed it at the moment his son asked to join the CIA. And that was really the central part of the movie--from beginning to end they were trying to figure out the tape and the sounds and all that. Back then, a transatlantic love-affair in the Congo would have been exceedingly difficult to both conduct and especially hide--even from an absentee father. There were several other things that were out of bounds but once a movie oversteps that 'dramatic license' boundary once or twice, the rest don't matter--the movie is ruined.

Also, this movie broke rule #1 (in my opinion): For a movie to be really likable, you need to have a central character that you either like, understand, or can at least relate to in some way or another. Wilson was like a piece of cardboard. Like the one line said "There can't be two of you".

Finally, for this to be interesting I think you'd have to have some prior knowledge on the subject, ie, have read at least a book or two on it to catch and/or follow some of the highly enigmatic dialog. I've read several non-fiction works on this, as well as some 'based on fact' fiction books, and fortunately *some* of the subject matter was familiar and semi-interesting. But this movie couldn't make up it's mind as to whether it wanted to be a 'based on fact' fictional movie, or a pure fantasy fiction piece. It mixed them and therefore sold itself short on each one.

--Jim
15 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"Friends can be enemies, and enemies friends"
Eric-Douglas-Statzer6 November 2017
Friend or foe, the O.S.S. will know. This is a brilliant depiction of the early days of the Central Intelligence Agency, through the eyes of a sinister and yet highly astute man, Edward Wilson played by the very intelligent Matt Damon. Damon's Harvard Ivy League education certainly didn't dampen his ability to play a Yale - Skull and Bones Society member recruited by an even more powerful agency in its inception.

This is not a film for the impatient or weak and it's not a film for anyone lacking the historical knowledge of the era. There's nothing funny about it, it's deep, multi-layered and complex. It's morally challenging and through the eyes of Wilson you'll find yourself living through a dark period of deceit and espionage, you may have to watch this one twice.

With an amalgamated A-list cast every performance is superb. There's a haunting feel to the film, an eerie and elusive plot that makes the viewer work hard to comprehend and appreciate it.

-Eric Statzer
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Incredibly accurate story about intelligence officers line of work!
djolisa8882 March 2017
There are more than enough comments and reviews about this movie that convinced me it needed its own audience to appreciate it fully. If you're interested in how the intelligence services recruit, train and conduct their business, this is definitely a movie for you.

The story follows Matt Damon as a young man throughout college, explaining when and how he became an OSS and later a CIA non-official cover operative. This movie will describe the line between a soldier and a spy.

Excellent casting, excellent directing.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A Thinking Man's Film
j_poirier31 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A sincere congratulations to the filmmakers who wove this intricate deceit and an even sincerer kudos to the few who were able not only to remain in their seats but also to appreciate the latent hues of what appeared to many a sterilely colored film.

Any discussion of The Good Shepherd's brilliant elements must begin with Matt Damon's rendition of Edward Wilson, a Cold War era CIA agent ostensibly dehumanized by the tediously executed yet crushingly weighty protocol his career demands. Though his calculated veneer seems overly flat through the first portion of this lengthy film (take the almost unrealistically miniscule evidence of aging and his paucity of emotion), the subtleties of his character accumulate as the yawns around a transfixed viewer become more audible.

Speaking in generalities, Wilson's is the story of a brilliant intellect suffocated by its acquiescence to a supposedly greater good. Anecdotally, consider a scene placed so early within the three hours as to have likely rendered it unremarkable in the memories of most viewers. During his initiation into a certain, influential society of "those whose country the rest of us are just visiting," Damon's character objects to the degradation of finding himself at the receiving end of a senior member's urine. His brief unwillingness to surrender dignity in the name of subservience to an ethos (or the entity representing it) plants a seed in the mind of the attentive viewer that furtively blossoms throughout the rest of the film in the form of a repressed individuality that belies his increasingly mechanical visage. This is not the story of a bland civil servant, but rather a tale of the manner in which civil servitude can strip even a New Haven poet of his human vitality.

Yet another moment lost (perhaps) amidst the interwoven timeline that speaks volumes as to the principal character's internal strife comes amidst the rubble of a newly divided Berlin. A still-young Agent Wilson quips that his superior's weakness may not be the chocolate his mother bestowed upon him, but rather the eagerness for approval that such systems of reward engender. This insight proves incisive with regard to Damon's character as he meets each request made of him throughout the remainder of the film with "would it please you?" Despite nary a camera delving into the inner workings of the KGB, one cinematographic cue during a scene that even the film's critics laud speaks to the universality of the plight suffered by the cogs of inhuman (and inhumane) governmental locomotion. As Agent Brocco beats, tortures and strips nude a Soviet operative the CIA suspects to be a mole, one cannot help but notice the striking resemblance between John Turturro and the man he is waylaying as their faces mirror one another at close range for several moments. Even before the audience learns that this tragic figure was indeed telling the truth to his interrogators, it waxes ironic that doppelgangers in both appearance and dedication to national service drive one another to the film's most heinously graphic deeds.

My only regret is that in the Berlin scene between Wilson and his sweet-toothed mentor, an unnecessary reference to the parallel "hearts and minds" campaigns of the post-World War II and modern eras was inserted to render an already abundantly topical film more evidently so. The pervasiveness of federal agency grown too lumberingly methodical to maintain its consonance with the civilization it was intended to safeguard should be at the fore of most American's minds. Catastrophically, the ubiquity of minds unwilling to pierce the veil of bureaucratic docility that guises this film's dehumanizing core leaves little hope that the moviegoer/citizen can decipher the patronizing platitudes of the modern political idiom.

Thank you, Mr. De Niro, for making us think.
17 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Huh? Too fragmented and slow ....
Vic_max9 January 2008
This a very long movie. It's a bit confusing unless you intend to rewatch the beginning after watching the end. Then ... you can understand the beginning better. Sound confusing? It shouldn't be this hard to watch a movie. Plus, the first 2 1/4 hours of this nearly 3 hour movie is kind of boring.

The movie is basically about the life of a man during the start of the CIA. We follow him from his induction into an elite fraternity (or order) into his career with the formation of the CIA.

If it doesn't sound interesting, that's because that's all there really is. Unless you're a CIA history buff and are interested in this stuff, it's a bit boring for the average viewer. There is only one place where there is a real plot - and that's right at the end for about 15 minutes.

Furthermore, the way the movie is chopped up and given how long it is, it's likely you'll forget the what happened at the beginning by the time you get to the end.

For the average viewer, this movie isn't really worth the time. For the CIA history aficionado - knock yourself out.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Edward Wilson Shepherds the Citizens of America
DaveDiggler27 December 2007
"The Good Shepherd" is my second best film of 2006. A lot of people who have seen it will think differently and I can understand that. This film is not for everyone, but the viewers who have a love for US History, The Cold War, CIA, Espionage, or Spy films should be pleased with "The Good Shepherd." It is very subtle, but extremely effective.

"The Good Shepherd" is told from a series of flashbacks during a two week mission to find the significance of a document that was sent to the house of Edward Wilson by an anonymous person(s). We see the rise of Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) from his ranks as a Skull and Bones member to the head of the Counter Intelligence section of CIA.

Robert De Niro directs this epic, near-masterpiece, of the creation of CIA through one mans eyes, Edward Wilson. Matt Damon gives a great performance and one of his best along with "The Departed" and "Good Will Hunting." Damon plays Edward Wilson who starts off as a Yale graduate and Skull and Bones member. He is recruited by an FBI Agent (Alec Baldwin) to spy on his poetry professor Dr. Fredrick's (Michael Gambon), who is believed to have set up a Nazi organization and is enlisting students and faculty members. Edward agrees to spy on his professor after some talking into and gets the names of the people Dr. Fredrick's has enlisted, which leads to his firing on the basis of his political beliefs.

On Deer Island (Skull and Bones retreat) he meets Margaret "Clover" Russell (Angelina Jolie) who seeks out Edward immediately and finds something about him quite intriguing. Matt Damon plays "the man made out of stone" giving little to no emotional reaction to anything and just about everything. Edward Wilson is a man of few words, but he chooses wisely what few words he speaks.

Edward Wilson falls in love with Laura, played wonderfully by Tammy Blanchard- a deaf women- but their relationship comes to an abrupt end as Edward finds that Margaret has become pregnant with his child and Edward is to do what is expected of him. This means he will have to leave Laura and marry Clover. A week after their marriage Edward has to go overseas during WWII, mostly working out of Germany, but is sent to London and joins the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), by General Bill Sullivan (Robert De Niro).

After the war Germany is crumbling and Edward Wilson is climbing the ranks garnering more and more trust. The Soviets are now looking to acquire as many scientists as possible. In Berlin, Edward Wilson meets his adversary, codename "Ulysses," and the back and forth battle between Wilson (His codename is "Mother") and Ulysses is something to really behold and some of the best scenes in the film take part during their back and forth battle of disinformation and counter intelligence and deception and infiltration of spies sent into one another's operations and then each adversary takes out these spies, then sends the "message" that these spies were found and disposed of. Was that confusing? Neither seems to gain much of any ground on each other until the end of the film where Ulysses sends a spy into Wilson's Agency and get's valuable information from someone very close to Edward Wilson. This information ruins the "Bay of Pigs" invasion which turns out to be a costly loss and damaging defeat. Wilson has to make a tough decision between his family and his country.

Edward Wilson was a man of selflessness who put his entire life into his country and did what he could do with his son. He makes sacrifices for his country and for his son. He sacrifices his time and relationship with his family for his country. He sacrifices his true love with Laura and marries Margaret for his son. If you were going to sum up Edward Wilson it probably would be best to use the term "selfless." Everything he does is for his country and the future of it. We never see him do much of anything for his own personal joy. This kind of behavior leads to a marriage that crumbles and falls apart. He plays the protector and is forced to do things such as have people killed and interrogated for the greater good. All over an idea- Communism.

I loved it. It may take a few viewings to fully understand the complexities of this film, but it is well worth it and an intense film with some great action and conversation throughout the film.

9.7/10
14 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Tries to be great, but ultimately fails.
frozensky8 April 2007
I found the core storyline not hard to follow, but because they chose to include so many under-explained tangents (it came off as a lame attempt to make it seem like it had more depth and girth than it actually did), the overall result is that the movie felt muddled. Add that to the problematic pacing/awful editing job, and this movie becomes the epitome of potential without successful followup.

I saw it in a theater, so I got the chance to watch it intently, without interruption, but I kept asking my friend what time it was.... even as early as only an hour in! Not a great or even remotely interesting movie by any means, and some seem to be fixated on the idea that it *must* be great because it's a movie about the CIA directed by De Niro that doesn't have explosions/car chases or romance/sentimentality. But in the end, this movie is totally forgettable. It's not a deep or extremely intellectual movie, but rather just a simple story in a convoluted veil, attempting to hide that there's not much substance to this.

Also, depth-less performance by Damon.
14 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Too slow, unrewarding, fragmented, pretentious, chaotic and pointless
FlorisV20 June 2007
This film is extremely inefficient, pointless, emotionless and suspenseless (save a few moments in the last hour). After two hours of watching I still found myself unrewarded for my patience. I didn't care anymore, it was going nowhere slow. A great movie is supposed to fascinate you from beginning to end, not to let you wait 2 hours for that to happen.

There are countless characters and scenes which are completely unnecessary and get in the way of what could otherwise have been an interesting film. The way the plot swings back and forth to several periods (WW II era, fifties, sixties) is also very chaotic, under the pretense of being ingenious which only makes it worse.

Because there's so much bits and pieces floating around it never can get deep. This film is too eager to move on to each next fragment of a story that has no clear direction. A poorly structured scenario is to blame in which a lot less important or even meaningless fragments could have been left out.

No great cast could have saved this disaster. Imagine this film not being made by de Niro and not be played by the allstar cast it had. What value would it have? 1 out of 10 to compensate for the blind admiration of Great Names, this film is clearly overrated. I advise to go read the next chapter of your book instead of watching this yawn.
51 out of 86 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Tradecraft used in Movie
eroche6 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent movie. Very complex. And without the simple "signals" many movies use to lead along the viewer. It's difficult to understand how truthful it is. Secrets are secrets. This comment is just to make a note of the tradecraft and other espionage activities found in the movie.

1/ Encrypted communications. There is use of (a) secure phones, and (b) telex machines (for communications).

2/ Token Passing. A U.S. dollar bill from which the serial number has been recorded is passed from Wilson to a Russian counterpart. When there is a need to make contact, even years later, the bill is passed back. Presumably such bills could be issued to many different persons forming a type of "latent" network.

4/ Operation Paperclip. It is not mentioned in the movie, but this was an operation designed to round up Nazi scientists and bring them to the U.S. in the immediate post-war period. Werner Von Braun from the Pnenumunde V2 rocket project was brought in to head up our rocket efforts.

5/ Wireless eaves dropping. (a) The book of Ulysses included an electronic bug of Wilson's office. To be such a long-lasting "bug", it would need to be "passive", using power only when needed. Seems a little bit unrealistic. (b) Hearing aid on German interpreter. This was a fake hearing aid that was sending a copy of all interviews (of defectors and others) to the Russians.

6/ Use of "Honey Trap" and Sex Blackmail. Wilson's son is seduced by a Russian agent, their sex is videotaped, under low resolution, and it reveals she pried from him the name of the landing point for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

7/ Technical Services. Much work in analysis of the blackmail tape. Included (a) refinement of resolution on film. (b) linking of clock time to background sound of aircraft taking off, (c) identification of type of overhead room fan, (d) sound of church bells and timing, (e) accent of honey trap woman, (f) noise filtering and frequency scanning/blocking to clarify what is said, (g) identification of surrounding trees (type of vegetation) from shadows on wall. All of these elements together helped determine the location of the honey trap.

8/ Cryptology & Cryptanalysis. Nothing much in the movie.

9/ Betrayal. Plenty of this. (a) English traitor has Wilson's tutor killed. (b) Wilson betrays his tutor, not knowing tutor himself is under cover attempting to expose Nazi organization efforts in the U.S., (c) Wilson turns in Dulles by revealing copies of Swiss bank statements. (d) Wilson saves son by having honey trap wife killed, but without telling him.

10/ Blackmail. By compromising Wilson's son, Russian KGB/GRU? operative attempts to compromise Wilson.

11/ Use of "legend". Russian double-agent is a fake defector using a name of someone else. Provides "useful" information for years, before being found out.

12/ Interrogation techniques: (a) beating, (b) true-enhancing drugs, here LSD used, (c) water-boarding (but without the board).

13/ Use of Cover. (a) Wilson as "trade attache", (b) Wilson's agent in central America is advised to stop wearing a class ring, does not take it off, is identified, and killed. (evidence of poor training on the US side).

14/ Coordination with FBI. (a) Exchange of information by leaking of CIA information to FBI in order to discredit enemy or traitor, (b) FBI used to arrest double agents operating in US.

15/ Radio communications. Some use of shortwave radio to coordinate operations.

Other notes: (a) No computer technology used! (b) All documents were paper files, and kept in filing cabinets with combination locks.

If anyone noticed something else, I'd love to hear about it.

Interesting Twists:

1/ Wilson seems to like girls who have a disability (a) his love who is deaf, and (b) the German interpreter who pretends to be deaf.

2/ Does anyone know if the Skull and Bones rituals were/are really like that? If so, this group of people are certified nuts (or at least they are made out to be in the movie). I mean, grown men, including Senators dressing up in drag and performing in front of their mates and wives?

3/ To me, the most convincing persons in the movie were (a) Pesci playing the Miami mobster, and (b) the Russian counterpart.
17 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed