Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 147 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: The tumultuous early history of the Central Intelligence Agency is viewed through the prism of one man's life in this espionage drama. (Universal Pictures)
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. A remarkable study of the corrosive effects of fear and power on an establishment insider who puts duty above all else.
  2. While a bit unwieldy at nearly three hours and at times slow going, the film is absolutely fascinating for anyone who shares De Niro's passions.
  3. A cool-headed thriller, and a richly detailed character study that traces the birth and evolution of America's foreign espionage bureaucracy, The Good Shepherd also marks a significantly more mature, assured directing turn from Robert De Niro.
  4. Even with its first-rate cast, current political relevance and tangled mysteries, The Good Shepherd remains as remote as Wilson himself. But frankly, if the lives of CIA spies are really this dreary, they may as well keep their secrets to themselves.
  5. In some ways, De Niro does a competent job in his second directorial effort but his characterizations are clumsy, and his members of the Power Elite always seem less real people than stick figures in a propaganda movie.
  6. Where's 007 when you need him? Neither shaken nor stirred, The Good Shepherd is a flat draft of history that looks at the Central Intelligence Agency's early years through the horn-rimmed gaze of a fictional spook.
  7. 40
    De Niro is damned if he's going to make a standard thriller out of this view from within the CIA, which might be refreshing if his solemn moral parable weren't so lacking in any other kind of juice, and if its hero were less of a round-shouldered, whey-faced organization man.

See all 33 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 52 out of 83
  2. Negative: 19 out of 83
  1. Dec 8, 2011
    The Good Shepherd is very much a difficult film to understand. At first glance, it is over 2 and a half hours of boring, sluggish history tracing the early history of counterintelligence within the CIA. But upon second glance, the film emerges as something quite different. Is it at all entertaining? No. Is it at all thrilling? For brief moments. But all in all, the film is not meant to be entertaining or thrilling. It is meant to be what film once thrived to be: pure art. It becomes difficult when first seeing this film to see the artistic majesty because most of us have become accustomed to watching a monkey throw **** on a wall and then calling that art. The Good Shepherd becomes like the Mona Lisa, but we must first remember that the Mona Lisa is art and **** on a wall is just **** on a wall. Then we see that this film is perfect because it is art, a true artistic piece of cinema. Expand
  2. Feb 10, 2012
    The Good Shepherd might have made an interesting love story -- Damon's character's love for a deaf girl, from a presumably humdrum background, interrupted by the pushy, establishment Jolie character. But while the deaf girl wasn't thrown out of a plane (as another, and the only non-white character in the film, will be) she might as well have been. Instead we get -- history. But it's not really history: more like Oliver Stone on downers. We get laughably stock KGB operatives, CIA self-aggrandizement ("CIA", not "the CIA"), wily Krauts and dutiful WASPs. Who, in one of the better throwaway lines of the film, own the United States of America, in case there was in any confusion on that point in the era of Barack Obama.

    It's a cliche, but I think a necessary one, that there is hardly a sympathetic character -- hardly a character -- in the film. The actual history of the CIA is fraught with failures thinking themselves noble, though, so perhaps this is an accurate depiction of its work after all. As a work of fiction it succeeds mostly in hinting at what it could have been.

See all 83 User Reviews


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