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The Good Shepherd
DVD disk
Apr 17, 2007 By: Jason Adams
The Good Shepherd order
Director:
Robert De Niro

Actors:
Matt Damon
Angelina Jolie
Robert De Niro

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Its April 1961 and the United States planned invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs has gone awry due to an apparent leak in intel. Edward Wilson, chief of counterintelligence for the CIA, is put in charge of the ensuing investigation. As he searches for answers, we see the path Wilson took to get here as one of the founding members of the Agency, as well as the toll it took on his family and personal life.

Based loosely on real life people and historical events.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
There have been a metric ton of movies dealing with espionage and the Cold War, and it seems like every year we add a few more to the pile. THE GOOD SHEPHERD doesnt set a new standard for the genre, but its a solid entry. In fact, I hesitate to even call it a spy movie. The previews would lead you to believe that THE GOOD SHEPHERD explains the creation of the CIA, which isnt exactly true; the film actually centers on Wilsons personal story (which itself is only loosely based on the life of James Jesus Angleton). Theres some intrigue and suspense, as well as your typical spy stuff, but since everything is filtered through Wilsons perspective, all the secret codes and double crosses are background to the drama of the mans personal life.

The various ingredients of THE GOOD SHEPHERD come together nicely in the final product. Eric Roths screenplay is patient yet deliberate in its execution, confidently telling a multi-decade story while playing with its timeline and structure in order to reveal the intricacies of the Intelligence world and its effect on Wilson and his family. De Niro follows up the underrated A BRONX TALE with another great turn behind the camera, making the most out of the different locales and time periods. The acting is also strong across the board, including supporting roles from Angelina Jolie, John Turturro, Billy Crudup, William Hurt, and 30 seconds of Joe Pesci. However, Matt Damon ultimately carries the movie. As Wilson, hes relentlessly solemn and humorless, but still manages to show through with an interior performance. And even though the character goes from college to middle age without any Rick Baker-like prosthetics, you can always tell Wilsons age just by the way Damon carries himself.

With all these factors working for it, THE GOOD SHEPHERD starts off strong, balancing the various story elements in an intriguing way, but it cant quite keep up the steam for all three of its hours. I was never bored or disinterested, but it felt like a three hour movieand not in the epic GODFATHER sense. It moves slowly, consisting mostly of talking heads and not a lot of action, and after the first couple hours I was getting some of the many characters confused. On that same note, the end felt a little rushed and anti-climactic, leaving me wanting to see more of certain characters, especially Turturros charismatic CIA agent and Tammy Blanchard as Wilsons deaf girlfriend. Not to sound too fickle, but THE GOOD SHEPHERD was long, but not long enough.

Oh, Matt Damon also appears in drag for about 30 seconds. I figure that might pique some of your interests.
THE EXTRAS
I know THE GOOD SHEPHERD wasnt exactly box office arson, but it deserved better than this. With so much history behind the characters and events, I expected a documentary or at the very least a commentary from De Niro, considering this was a decade long passion project for him.

Deleted Scenes (15:59): The seven scenes address one of the gripes I had, fleshing out some more of the supporting character roles. The movie is already long enough so these were wisely excised, but its still nice to see the footage here.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
If you have the patience for an unhurried spy movie that substitutes history for action, THE GOOD SHEPHERD should be right up your alley. I dont know if the film was successful enough to warrant a more in-depth special edition, but I wouldnt be opposed to seeing more than the lone extra featured on this disc.

Extra Tidbit: This movie reminds me that Joe Pesci needs more work. And on an entirely unrelated note, so does Leslie Nielsen.
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