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The Good Shepherd

Published December 21, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Universal Pictures.
The Good Shepherd Poster The Good Shepherd
Every fall, big talent ensembles get together to make quality films for Oscar season. And every year, without fail, a few of them accidentally collaborate on mediocrity or worse. The Good Shepherd is not horrible, but it's length demands something much more interesting than this.

Movie Review: The Good Shepherd


Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) rises from Yale secret society to government work to leading the charge of what becomes the CIA. All of this happens in flashbacks, as 60s political situations demand his present attention. He seems to keep secrets his whole life, and never opens up to either his wife (Angelina Jolie) or child. But we win a few coups.

It must be accurate because everyone looks so serious and speaks so vaguely. Dialogue is simply incomplete sentences. "Excuse me. Please." And the other person knows what he's asking her.

Even the plot is vague, as it unfolds in snippets of backstory. You see scenes of Wilson's initiation in the Skull and Bones and scenes of his childhood and scenes of his marital struggles, but no flowing arc about them. They all just pepper in while all the hard work is being done.

It's so heavy handed. His father tells him not to lie, he abandons his family for years, he supervises torture and killings. Even Schindler's List had moments of humanity and that was the freaking holocaust. Lighten up, dudes.



Wilson is not a character. He has no personality throughout the entire film, and maybe that's the point, because his whole life is obsession with other people's secrets, but that's hard to stay with for three hours. His son inherited his charisma too, so when they have it out near the end, it's a battle of the monotones.

The whole movie is underlit. We get it, it's shady. Just let us see the scene.

Damon is not aged effectively to look middle aged, so when his son is fully grown, they look like classmates. But tha'ts hardly the problem.

The subject is interesting. The slow reveal of secrets is cool and the old technology, like the sound analysis, shows how we always got things done. You'd have to be a real history buff though to plod through this delivery.

I don't really follow all the plot twists and secrets. I didn't understand who they thought the guy they were torturing was and what information they were going after. The process is intriguing and I know it's all there, but I'm not into this world enough to connect all the dots. And that's not what it's really about, it is about the process.

There is some good cold blooded, heartless business that pulls no punches. It's nice to see a film with balls. But balls are little organs with great power. Perhaps that means that less should be more. See how I tied it all together there?


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Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Universal Pictures.
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