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Movie Review: The Good Shepherd

Alternate Title: Secrets and Lies

Story: There are spies among us - or are there? Director Robert DeNiro treats us to a fictionalized account (or is it?) of the inception of the CIA with an engrossing screenplay by Eric Roth (Munich). Loosely based (or not) on the real life of CIA agent James Jesus Angleton, we find young Edward Wilson being recruited by Government spooks to weed out Nazi sympathizers in the Yale faculty. He is hooked. For love of country he will root out evil, betrayal, moles, double agents and the vortices of war (both cold and hot).

The story begins and ends with the Bay of Pigs debacle. Through an engrossing series of flashbacks and events of the 'present' we see how this secret agency got its cast of characters (many from the secretive Skull and Bones Society) and how it effects us today.

I was engrossed with this spy/thriller from the opening scenes to the very end. However, be warned - if you like your thrillers loaded with pyrotechnics you will be sorely disappointed. This is a character driven, methodic, at times plodding study of the less glamorous engineers of our double and triple crosses, worldwide puppet regimes, unseen creators of kingdoms and assassins of the guilty (or are they?)

I loved it.

Acting: Matt Damon is fabulous as Edward Wilson. He is a smart actor and on my top ten list. He never disappoints. Angelina Jolie is fine as the lonely wife but her off-screen press is hard to forget while she is on-screen. The rest of the cast is right on the money including a hats off to the always fine Alec Baldwin, Michael Gambon and William Hurt. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Billy Crudup, John Turturro Tammy Blanchard, and Oleg Stefan round out a great ensemble.

Predilection: I like Matt Damon and I like films with cloak and dagger plots.

Critters: I did not see it but one of my movie buddies swears there was a golden retriever in one scene.

Food: There was food at huge dinners and cocktail parties but it did not look very appetizing. It was probably ruubber chicken.

Blatant Product Placement: The OSS, FBI, KGB and CIA

Soundtrack: Excellent.

Visual Art: The film was shot in a noirish mode with great light, composition and camera angles.

Theater Audience: I saw it in a huge theater with two friends. There were quite a few people in the theater but they got swallowed up in the massiveness of the room. By the way, the younger member of our group was bored by the film but my contemporary and I liked it.

Weather: The weather was pretty good throughout.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I did not drift but I did start to look at my watch as we closed in on the two hour mark.

Predictability Level: Sadly, we know how this agency turns out.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Perhaps.

Nit Picking: I did not see any reason why this could not have been edited to a two hour film.

Big Screen or Rental: I always vote for the big screen.

Length: A hefty two hours and forty minutes.