The Good Shepherd (2006)
USA / English
"Edward Wilson believed in America, and he would sacrifice everything he loved to protect it. "The tumultuous early history of the Central Intelligence Agency is viewed through the prism of one man's life.
An incredibly complex work and one of 06's finest...
The Good Shepherd 3.5/4 4/5
The Good Shepherd is an incredibly complex work and one of the finest
films of a quality ripe 2006. Oscar winner Eric Roth continues his
brilliant work with this original screenplay, named one of the best
unproduced scripts in Hollywood in the late 90's. A film about one of
the CIA's founding officers isn't a dream project commercially for a
studio but thankfully, the quality of the script was too great to
Shepherd follows the life of Edward Wilson (Damon) through his college
years at Yale to his ascension as one of the CIA's founding officers
and trusted veterans. His extraordinary dedication to his work comes
with an unbearable price as he must sacrifice his family to protect his
country. At one point in the film, Wilson faces an enormous choice-
does he abandon his ideals for what he believes is right? Would this
abandonment render his life, almost solely devoted to his country,
meaningless? This, as well as a depiction of the result of Wilson's
decision, are just two of the moments of brilliance in The Good
Wilson inhabits a world of betrayal and secrecies only enhancing the
irony of the biblical quote inscribed on the CIA's wall- "And ye shall
know the truth and the truth shall make you free". While we are given a
glimpse into the life of a younger, more vital Wilson, the world he
occupies creates the characteristically stolid, humorless man we come
With its vast emotional core, the film seemingly effortlessly navigates
one of the most volatile periods in the history of American
intelligence while remaining character based. At 165 minutes, it is
overlong but remains engaging for the vast majority of its running
time. Had a few relatively insignificant scenes been cut, Shepherd
could have retained the thrilling and energetic pace it often
possesses. However, the length is justifiable as the scope of the film
is incredibly large and very few scenes can be deemed unnecessary or
Robert DeNiro's direction far exceeds that in his debut, 1993's "A
Bronx Tale". Normally portrayed as a brute, here, DeNiro assuredly
handles every moment with an innate tenderness we rarely see in his
work. He appropriately treats Shepherd with a precise attention to
detail often attributed to some of the greatest directors of our time.
A silently haunting Matt Damon carries the film on his shoulders.
Edward Wilson is completely introverted and while Damon internalizes
his thoughts, some of the films greatest moments are when emotion
unknowingly pours out of Wilson through a mere flicker in his eyes.
Angelina Jolie and Michael Gambon deliver very strong turns amidst a
one of a kind cast topped off by the return of Joe Pesci, whose last
acting stint was 1998's "Lethal Weapon 4".
The Good Shepherd is a film that demands to be seen. It is surprisingly
apolitical as Wilson's life and its disintegration are the true story
of this epic. While some call it "unsentimental", exactly the opposite
is true. It is a testament to Roth's script that a film with such an
introverted protagonist provides such a visceral, affecting experience.
Shepherd is an intelligent, poignant look at the cost of blind
dedication and constant secrecy. The effect this has on Wilson's life
is irrevocable as we are taken on a remarkable cinematic journey, one
that should be remembered as one of 06's greatest.
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