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The Good Shepherd
DVD disk
04.17.2007 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?
Itís April 1961 and the United Statesí 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 doesnít set a new standard for the genre, but itís 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 isnít exactly true; the film actually centers on Wilsonís personal story (which itself is only loosely based on the life of James Jesus Angleton). Thereís some intrigue and suspense, as well as your typical spy stuff, but since everything is filtered through Wilsonís perspective, all the secret codes and double crosses are background to the drama of the manís personal life.

The various ingredients of THE GOOD SHEPHERD come together nicely in the final product. Eric Rothís 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, heís 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 Wilsonís 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 canít quite keep up the steam for all three of its hours. I was never bored or disinterested, but it felt like a three hour movieóand not in the epic ďGODFATHERĒ 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 Turturroís charismatic CIA agent and Tammy Blanchard as Wilsonís 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 wasnít 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 itís 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 donít know if the film was successful enough to warrant a more in-depth special edition, but I wouldnít 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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