Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Good Shepherd

I just got home a little bit ago from seeing this film. There are a few things to know before going into it. This movie closes in on 3 hours in length, is utterly sadening, and is fantastic. The Good Shepherd slipped into theaters at the very end of 2006, and is easily one of the best movies from that year. The plot is intriguing (if awfully confusing at some points, even after the movie is over), and the cast is spot on.

Matt Damon has truly flourished this year, with this movie following shortly after his stellar performance in the Departed. Throughout this entire movie he exudes a sense of sadness, but stoic acceptance of what he does. The rest of the cast gives brilliant performances as well. Alec Baldwin, Robert Deniro, Billy Crudup, William Hurt, and others create the impression that they genuinely are these characters, not the actors playing them. Even Angelina Jolie gives the best performance I have ever seen from her.

The plot follows Edward Bell Wilson (Damon), based loosely on James Jesus Angelton- the founder of the CIA's Counterintelligence operations. His story is presented in a non-linear fashion from his college days through his work in intelligence during World War II, up through the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He struggles between his family and work, and finding those that he can trust- including himself. Some of the most powerfull scenes are not within the confines of the CIA, but between him and his wife and son. This movie invokes sympathy for even this fairly unlikeable character.

Robert Deniro's directing seem directly influenced by one of the movie's producers- Francis Ford Coppola. The dense plot and depth of characters is reminiscent of The Godfather movies. The only flaws in this movie have to deal with pacing. Some parts are drawn out a little too long, and there are scenes that seem a little unnecessary. A small appearance by Joe Pesci is unfortunately one of those scenes. Despite the slow pacing, it felt no longer than two hours.

I was very happy to have this review as my first one. It was one of the best movies I have seen in quite some time. Be warned, however, that you have to be in the mood to see a slightly depressing, and completely twisting movie to enjoy this. And you have to be prepared to sit there, for a long time.


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