Stella Says! A Review of The Good Shepard! Fashiontribes Now What Movie Should I Go See Blog?

The GOOD SHEPARD is more than good, actually–it’s great!
Not to be confused with “The Good German” starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett–who played Brad Pitt’s wife in “Babel” while Brad Pitt’s real-life partner, Angelina Jolie plays Matt Damon’s wife in “The Good Shepherd.”  And of course, Matt and George and Brad are currently filming “Ocean’s Thirteen” with Steven Soderbergh who directed “The Good German.”  And Matt is also currently appearing in “The Departed” with Leonardo DiCaprio, who was originally cast to play the lead in “The Good Shepherd.”  Hollywood is amazingly incestuous, isn’t it? ( Can you keep that all straight and repeat it fast without stopping three times in a row?)

“The Good Shepherd” features an amazing cast–Matt Damon, William Hurt, Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Billy Crudup, Angelina Jolie, John Turturro, Joe Pesci, Timothy Hutton–the list goes on and on.  As does the movie, clocking in at two hours and forty-eight minutes.  And that’s WITHOUT the seventy-seven previews they typically run beforehand.  Make sure you hit the bathroom before the movie starts and skip the super-sized soda.  The movie is long, but is an entirely engrossing look at the birth of the C.I.A.–as told through the story of one of its operatives.

It is a story of trust and secrets, loyalty and betrayal, real lies and created truths.  Centered around the failed Bay of Pigs operation in 1961, the film spirals back to 1939 and traces the beginnings of the Agency through Edward Wilson’s (Matt Damon) induction into this clandestine lifestyle, intermittently flashing forward to unravel the mystery of how the covert operation to overthrow Fidel Castro was breached.  The attention to detail–from the clean-cut, horn-rimmed look Damon sports, to the dank, cavernous hallways and fluorescent lighting gives a great sense of verisimilitude.  The process of deconstructing a fuzzy piece of film footage and audiotape to obtain clues that will locate the internal leak is painstaking and precise–even before the advent of widespread computer technology.

Matt Damon does an excellent job at portraying Wilson–a Poetry student at Yale, who was invited into the secret Skull and Bones society and eventually recruited for the O.S.S.–the precursor to the C.I.A.  Interestingly enough, this trajectory is similar to a well-known political figure–former President George Bush (father of our current President) who headed the agency in the mid 70s.  Wilson is depicted as a patriot and true believer who dedicates his entire life to “protecting” America–but who loses his soul, and his family, in the process.  His taciturn and discreet manner make him an excellent agent–but inspire frustration in his wife Margaret (Angelina Jolie) and fear in his son Edward Jr. (Eddie Redmayne).

In fact, fear is a running theme in the film–the paranoia that escalated into the Cold War between the USA and the USSR created the C.I.A.  And in the post 9/11 era, the very same fear continues to feed and sustain its existence.  The fear and betrayal portrayed in “The Good Shepherd,” however, is not as much between the USA (a.k.a. “The Good Guys”) and the USSR (“The Bad Guys”) but internally within the agency.  Wilson learns early on that no one is to be trusted–no one can be trusted.  How ironic that among all his colleagues and cohorts, who ultimately double-cross or disappoint, the only man true to his word is his KGB adversary–known as “Ulysses.”

It’s not surprising that this film had an epic, “Godfather”-like feel to me–it was meticulously directed by Robert De Niro, and featured Francis Ford Coppola as one of the producers.   Adding to the film’s esteemed pedigree, the screenplay is by Eric Roth, who also wrote “Forrest Gump,” “Munich,” “Ali” and “The Horse Whisperer.”  With only two weeks until the end of the year, the studios are unleashing Oscar-worthy films upon us–and “The Good Shepherd” certainly holds its own in this crowd.   A captivating look at life undercover.

Stella Louise

LA Story .

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Author: Stevie Wilson

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