"The Good Shepherd"
Directed by Robert De Niro.
Written by Eric Roth.
Starring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, John Turturro and William
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 12/21/06
While it certainly is NOT, in the words of
esteemed "film critic" Larry King, "the best spy movie ever made",
"The Good Shepherd" is still a very good film that helps educate the
people on the early days of the CIA while giving us a fun but quiet
spy film about what life might be like while you are always looking
over your shoulder.
Matt Damon plays Edward Wilson, a ho-hum
intelligence analyst; we follow Wilson's life from the present day,
just after the Bay of Pigs incidents in Cuba in 1961, backwards via
flashback all the way to 1939. Edward goes to Yale, where he
makes many of his future spy connections; also through Yale, he
meets his first sweetheart, a deaf woman (Tammy Blanchard), and his
second sweetheart, a woman who will eventually become his wife
(Angelina Jolie). He gets sent off to Europe in the early 40s
to work counterintelligence in the waning years of World War II
before being sent back to Washington to run all kinds of
intelligence activities for the government. All the while,
Edward's got his hands on everything from dirty moles in his
government to Russian contacts to assassination attempts to initial
spy activities in Cuba.
There is a sizable amount going on that I
didn't think it was too hard to follow...but, in a film where there
are about a dozen Actors That You've Heard Of, that can be a bit
many to keep up with. Director Robert De Niro also has a small
part in this film, as he makes way for other performers (William
Hurt, John Turturro, Alec Baldwin, Joe Pesci, Michael Gambon,
Timothy Hutton, the list goes on) who all do good work in small
bunches. The movie is mostly Damon, which is normally fine but
his character as written is so dry that you were almost begging for
a good laugh to lighten the tone a bit. This Edward Wilson is
a company stiff, and by making him an upper-crusty white stiff who
is a humorless son-of-a-bitch De Niro has given us a
sometimes-interesting, sometimes-as-boring-as-paint-thinner lead in
a two hour and forty minute opus.
This, certainly, makes for a long sit.
But the material is interesting; characters
speaking in code or generalities to throw off whoever might be
listening is fun. Taking calls from what looks like the
Batphone also looks cool; shady dealings with questionable
characters with the occasional "removal" of obstacles is always
great in films like these. Even though it all came down to a
plot device that ultimately is not that interesting--Wilson's
technical team is busy breaking down a room somewhere overseas
because of a leak in our operations--"The Good Shepherd" keeps you
watching because you are just tense the whole time waiting for the
next spy thing to happen. This sounds vague, I know, but when
you see the movie you'll get what I'm talking about.
I did get the sense that it was much ado
about nothing once I was driving home and thinking about what I
liked, but while I was in the theater "The Good Shepherd" was quite
captivating throughout, even if our lead is straight molasses.
(You'll also having a hard time buying the ever-youthful-looking
36-year-old Damon playing a 40-something guy with a 20-year-old
son.) I don't think this one is worthy of any of the year's
top prizes but it's still a great one to catch as you sift through
your holiday options.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard