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The Good Shepherd(2006)

With no action sequences and a dense story, the movie still manages to be engaging


If you were concerned that "The Good Shepherd was just going to be a long political intrigue movie, you were right. But if you thought that it was going to be a long, boring, political intrigue movie, think again. With performances that ring loudly and a script that sets a fast pace, there is nothing boring about "The Good Shepherd". If you are not completely savy on politics, no matter; though you may miss some of the historical references, the story is explained well enough that even a complete layman (such as myself) can understand it. If you are intested in this genre of movie, and you haven’t seen it, you should be disappointed in yourself. For those who despise these types of movies, steer clear, because this one is dense. For the rest of you, I strongly recommend this as time well spent.


Though I am not a history buff or involved in politics beyond following the presidential elections, I wanted to see this movie. Why? Three reasons: Eric Roth is the writer ("Forest Gump" and "Munich"), a star studded cast, and because I love movies. Though the reports from many of my sources came back as “boring and too long”, I saw it anyway. After all, when the people I know say that something is “boring”, they mean that it’s a 'thinking man’s' movie. Since I like to fancy myself as a thinking man, I saw it despite thier warnings. Contrary to my assumptions, you do not have to be a thinking man (or women) to enjoy this film. In fact, if you have not seen it, I recommend that you do when you have time (more specifically 2hrs 48mins).

The plot
You follow the story of silent, humorless Edward Wilson (Damon) from his days as a Yale student to his life as a CIA agent. Though this sounds like nothing special, the journey takes us through world war II, the cold war, and the bay of pigs. Thrown into the mix of historical references is a dysfunctional romance between Edward and a wife that barely knows him, Margaret (Jolie). With dabs of drama and conspiracy the tale is made more entertaining than it sounds on paper.

Reasons to see it
Everything! The acting is exactly what you’d expect from a cast of Damon, Jolie, Baldwin, and De Niro. Though Damon’s character is silent and almost without personality, his performce stands out amongst the rest. His convincing performance as a cold, stoic patriot of America fuels every silence in his dialogue with a dissertation of thought. I am really surprised Damon isn’t on more people’s lips as being one of the best actors of this generation. Speaking of cast, this movie also delivers what seems to be a Joe Pesci cameo (a great personality that his been the italian thug in mob movies since "Goodfellas"—maybe even before). Kudos to the casting team for thier superb choices.

The pacing. If this plot was shot something like “Good Night and Good Luck” (which some of you might mistakenly lump "Shepherd" together with), I admit that the movie would probably be boring. But the rapid pace of the direction and that fact that not one piece of dialogue is a waste of screen time, gives the movie a more lively feel and keeps the audience from falling asleep. Though the complete lack of action sequences in this political thriller may tempt you to start to doze, you’ll find that you can’t. Do you know why? Because you are engaged. The level of politics and historical references made in this film do not alienate the viewer, as the film thouroughly supplies the necessary information to understand what is happening at all times. I find this important becuase many political thrillers often leave me in the dust of their target audience of historians and scholars.

Some quick notes: the score is very complimentary to what you see in the film. The great unsung heroes of film are the music composers (minus John Williams). You may not realize this, but the music often helps to set the mood for scenes. Fowler and Zarvos do a great job keeping the music at the same mood and pace as the direction (P.S. didn’t know De Niro had this in him). The last note I'd like to make is on the thought provoking dialogue. With quotes from great poets and writers alike, the film offers those who want to be intellectually challenged plenty of material to think about. “What is more important, your country or your son?”

The Negatives
To be honest, if there are faults with this movie, I’m just not smart enough to figure them out. If I have to write something to balance out the list of positives, I’ll just say that there is nothing uplifting about this movie. Though the tone is meant to be dark and dreary, some people don’t enjoy movies without a happy ending. Well aside from the fact that America is still standing today, there is no heart-lifting done by this film.

In summary…
…this is a great movie that border lines on great art. If this sounds even semi-interesting to you, see it and you wil not be disappointed. If you want a romantic comedy or mindless action flick, steer clear.

Spoiler Grumbles
WARNING: Please do not continue reading unless you have either seen the movie or do not mind having it spoiled.

I really don’t have any legitimate grumbles about this film, as I said, it’s near perfect. However, I will gripe about Angelina Jolie. This is the 5th movie in a row where I’ve seen Jolie playing Angelina Jolie. We all know the role, strong female lead who can hold her own against any man and goes about leading the movement to shatter social norms. Please don’t get me wrong, I am all about strong women romping the oppression social stigmas. After all the absence of double standards is the future. I’m just saying that Jolie should expand her range. I’ve yet to see her play a role in which she doesn’t de-masculinate (sp) every guy she sees or a role in which she plays the 'cute doe' instead of the 'sexy temptress'. I’m sure she can, I would just like to see it (please point me in the right direction if I’ve missed a movie recently).

Then again, I’m just a dude, what do I know.

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