The Good Shepherd


Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33

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Critic Reviews

  1. A remarkable study of the corrosive effects of fear and power on an establishment insider who puts duty above all else.
  2. 100
    One of the most impressive movies ever made about espionage.
  3. 91
    It's the type of film that may be forgiven its imperfections when they are compared with the vastness of its accomplishments.
  4. 88
    De Niro pulls the viewer into the world he has created and holds him there, sometimes spellbound, until the story is over and the end credits roll.
  5. The Good Shepherd is serious adult moviemaking, a truly surprising effort from De Niro, a man deeply interested in the art, craft and psychology of espionage. He seems to believe that we'd better be interested in it, because it's interested in us.
  6. 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.
  7. Damon is terrific in the role--all-knowing, never overtly expressing a feeling. Indeed, so is everyone else in this intricate, understated but ultimately devastating account of how secrets, when they are left to fester, can become an illness, dangerous to those who keep them, more so to nations that base their policies on them.
  8. It's taken a dozen years for Eric Roth's smart, thoughtful, psychologically complicated script to reach the screen under Robert De Niro's careful and methodical direction, and it is easy to see why.
  9. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Deliberately paced, epic and ambitious, The Good Shepherd feels related in tone, mood and style to "The Godfather."
  10. Roth's screenplay, steeped in the peculiar rituals, lock-jawed repression and smug sense of superiority of the WASP ruling class that both shaped America's intelligence community and made it vulnerable, is less interested in derring-do than back-room deals and the day-to-day drudgery of spying, driven by the notion that espionage is a cynical high-stakes game played with people's lives and the ante is human decency and connectedness.
  11. 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.
  12. Here, he's (Damon) the ultimate enigma machine, a man willing to erase himself for his country. Does that make him a hero? The Good Shepherd is too closemouthed to let on.
  13. The problem with The Good Shepherd is that it's a closed-off movie about a closed-off individual. Wilson is inscrutable from the get-go, and remains so. Damon does subtle work within the narrowest of confines.
  14. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Still, even if the movie's vast reach exceeds its grasp, it's a spellbinding history lesson. The Good Shepherd demands you watch it like a spy: alert, paranoid, never knowing whom you can trust, or who will stab you in the back.
  15. 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.
  16. 63
    Leaves you longing for the other, better political thrillers it evokes.
  17. 63
    Shepherd wants to say something profound about the effect of a deceitful government on human values. But it's tough to slog through a movie that has no pulse.
  18. It's fitting that a drama trading in classified information would turn out to be such a cryptic bugger.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 162 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 46 out of 84
  2. Negative: 20 out of 84
  1. Jan 25, 2015
    On paper, The Good Shepherd is a can't miss film. I mean how could you go wrong with a film about the beginnings of the C.I.A., directed byOn paper, The Good Shepherd is a can't miss film. I mean how could you go wrong with a film about the beginnings of the C.I.A., directed by Robert De Niro, and starring multiple Academy Award Winners? I was really excited about finally sitting down to watch this three hour epic, the critics raved about, but sadly, it the case of the Good Shepherd, it was the user reviews that were spot on. Matt Damon portrays one of the C.I.A.'s top agents, a man whose life revolves around his work. The story is based on an investigation into what went wrong during the Bay of Pigs invasion, while at the same time flashing back to how Damon's character got his start in the spy agency. We see everything from his childhood trauma's to his recruitment in college, his actions in World War II, and everything else he did leading up to the Bay of Pigs. Matt Damon was absolutely the perfect choice to play Agent Edward Wilson, as his natural personality was a perfect fit for the characters. If Damon wasn't good enough, he's surrounded by a cast of Hollywood legends that any film would be hard pressed to duplicate, so why the low rating? Even the premise of the film was excellent, but it's downfall is in the story itself. The Good Shepherd is over three hours long and easily feels like it was double that, as the film moves at an absolute snails pace. While the story and the actors were phenomenal, the film itself is done in such a way that it's one long conversation after another, with little if any action in between. Every time an angle is built up, we're sent to the other part of the story and simply have to assume the conclusion, without actually seeing it. The lack of resolution wasn't the only issue, as the film's large cast comes back to haunt it. There are so many people in this movie that are all dressed the same, who all act the same, and who all look the same. I couldn't keep track of who was who. While the Good Shepherd has the makings of an award winning film, the truth is that everyone behind the scenes blew it. This film is much too long, much too slow, and much too confusing to ever be enjoyable, and personally I think it is one of the biggest disappointments to come along in a very long time. Full Review »
  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,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.
    Full Review »
  3. 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 historyThe 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. Full Review »