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.
As the Bible says, the good shepherd knows his sheep and jealously guards them. This is precisely what the CIA is trying to do, and what the protagonist of this film tried to do, despite having completely forgotten about his personal life, which gradually crumbles as time goes on and missions demand more and more of him. Robert De Niro is a remarkable actor, but I didn't know him as a director for the simple fact that he only directed two films (this one and one other). Even so, I recognize his ability. It's not a perfect film, it lacks a sense of rhythm and the editing could have been more ambitious. But I liked what I saw.
The script is very good and tells the story of Edward Wilson, a brilliant young man, graduated from the best academies, with a sharp mind, a quiet personality and extraordinarily discreet and silent. Due to all these characteristics, he was recruited for Military Intelligence in the most intense years of World War II, later passing to the CIA, an organization that is in its beginnings and that will be decisive in the following years, during the Cold War. He's good at what he does, he's becoming more and more important within the Secret Service. However, his personal life is different: stuck in a personal code of honor, he abandons his love to marry a woman he doesn't know, but who is pregnant by him. Years later, he assumes great relevance in the failed Bay of Pigs. Being the target of his superiors' suspicions, he goes to the whistleblower who compromised the operation.
The film tells an excellent story, but there are points less well executed: the first is the notion of the passage of time: we are not able to understand very well what happens in the 1940s and what happens afterwards, in the 1950s and 1960s. There is a lack of elements that help us to notice these temporal advances and setbacks, and Damon's expressionless face, always equal, doesn't help either, as if the character were incapable of aging. Another problem I felt is the slow pace, with inexplicably long scenes. Too many minutes could have been cut off on the editing table.
Matt Damon is a good actor and gets an excellent job in this film, somewhat counterpointing the strong and charismatic action characters that the actor played at that point in his career, as in the "Bourne" franchise and in "The Departed". Here, he's discreet, reserved and silent, and he can really handle the film practically on his own. The rest of the cast only appears when they need it, but the strength of De Niro and Damon must have been enough to call the cast a huge roster of renowned stars, with firm credits and previous work with one, the other or both actors: Alec Baldwin, Joe Pesci, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, John Sessions, Eddie Redmayne, Oleg Stefan and Tammy Blanchard, just to name a few actors that appear in this film, even if it's only for a couple of good scenes. Everyone is giving their contribution, however modest, always in an honorable way. The one who seems a little out of place is Angelina Jolie. She has more than a couple of good scenes, but seems to be trying her hardest to stand out and get attention. I may be misjudging, but that's what I felt as I watched her work.
Technically, it's a contained film, which leaves the narrative and the actors all the space they need to get our attention. There are no flashy effects or devices to distract or keep us entertained when the plot stumbles, because it doesn't. We have a confident cinematography, in which the demanding De Niro showed that he has a sense of framing and knows how to demand the best from the camera. It is a sharp film, with a good balance of colors and light, good depth and contrast. The sets and costumes are very good, but there are few elements that help us to realize the passage of time. There is not much use of visual, special or sound effects, but what was used has quality.
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.
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.
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.
The biography of a spy does not necessarily a spy movie make.
The Good Shepherd is interminable. Edward Wilson, as portrayed here in word and deed, has no personality. Sitting through two hours and forty-seven minutes with a character even less expressive than Mr. Spock, and with none of Spock's charm, becomes an exercise in torment. It is like waiting for the Sphinx to smirk. I found myself checking the elapsed time every five minutes. Can I tolerate five minutes more? Somehow I saw it through to the end. A hollow victory, but a victory mine.
I'm in no position to judge whether Matt Damon succeeds or fails. Angelina Jolie, to my mind, doesn't actually look like someone who might have been alive during the 1940s. The rest of the cast could have been anyone. They come, they go, they say things. I suppose the one thing I can admire is that violence is not glamorized. It's shown as dirty. A man is beaten to death and dumped in a river. A woman is thrown from an airplane. There's nothing about either of these killings that hints of the action-adventure flick.
I give the film a 6 because it doesn't take the easy route. There are no fiery explosions. I can't actually remember if anyone is shot. But I can't find it in me to rate this film a 7 because watching it through to the end is a kind of torture that is incompatible with entertainment.
This is not a fun watch. In fact, I wouldn't necessarily say there's anything fun about this movie at all. The subject matter. The events depicted. The performances. The pacing. The length. Everything at hand here would make for an otherwise dismal watch -- something I'd call much of the first two-thirds of my viewing of director Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd." However, when you let this movie truly play out and reveal itself to you, you start to understand where he and writer Eric Roth are going with all of this. It's a pretty brutal corridor that they take you down, but it ultimately ended up being a satisfying direction to tread towards nonetheless. Again, it's flawed and overlong, with some pretty flat character work. But the plotting here is where the real magic lies.
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.
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 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.
Tiens, je mets 2. C’est pour Bobby derrière la caméra, ce bon vieux Bobby de Niro qui voudrait faire du Scorsese dans l’espionnage à moins que ce ne soit l’inverse. Sa mise en scène n’est pas mauvaise, elle est juste barbante : c’est souvent le problème avec ces acteurs qui se prennent pour des réalisateurs, ils ne veulent rien couper… Du coup, on se retrouve avec un brouillon interminable qui fait des allers-retours entre 1939 et 1961 (la baie des cochons et cet échec mémorable de la CIA…).
Bon, c’est ce que j’ai à peu près compris, car je ne suis bien entendu pas allé jusqu’au bout de cette emmerdance très emmerdante, surtout que Matt Dacon est mauvais et qu’Angelina paZolie est nulle. Du coup, le motivateur de regardage de daube est tombé en rideau. Bobby, retourne faire l’idiot avec Ben Stiller, au moins, on sait à quoi s’attendre. Merci à toi.