Monday, December 25, 2006
The Good Shepherd
Director Robert DeNiro sets out to make "The Godfather" of espionage films but loses his way in the editing room. There is an intelligent, absorbing story buried in the excesses of this plodding, numbing film and knowing when to cut may have saved it.
Billed as the untold story of the birth of the CIA, the premise is very inviting but after a promising start, the film gets caught in it's own complexities and loses its focus. Staying centered on the CIA's inception would have been far more interesting without Matt Damon's soap opera of personal issues. His personal sacrifices become the heart of the film and could have been expressed in a more economical fashion and still made the point.
The acting is actually very good. Mr. Damon maintains his stoic, icy demeanor throughout keeping his family, and unfortunately the audience, at a distance. Angelina Jolie, while terribly miscast as his wife, makes the most of her role and brings much needed energy to the dull proceedings. The rest of the pedigree cast (including William Hurt, Alex Baldwin and John Turturro) do fine work but unfortunately Mr. DeNiro's glacial direction keeps the audience struggling to appreciate the effort.
The central question (no pun intended) is how much will a man sacrifice for his country? The film answers the question but takes too long to tell the tale.