Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Good Shepherd

"It isn't about dedication and loyalty, it's about belief in what we do."

Directed by: Robert De Niro

Written by: Eric Roth

Starring: Matt Damon, Billy Crudup, Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, John Turturro

My rating: 3/5

After De Niro’s last uneven foray in directing, A Bronx Tale (1993), it is fair to say that audiences across the world treated the prospect of this film with mistrust. However, The Good Shepherd proves to be a pleasant surprise in all respects. The film tells the fictionalised story of the early days of the CIA and one of its most powerful figures Edward Wilson played brilliantly as always by Matt Damon. His life is chronicled in a truncated narrative that starts at the end and catches up over the course of the film. He is slowly sucked into the lonely life of a CIA operative, without ever really having any choice, but without ever really objecting. His detachment from his wife and children is the main focus of the plot, along with his lack of ability to maintain friendships in the cutthroat world of political intelligence.

De Niro has created a very dark portrayal of the soullessness required for what Wilson believes is patriotism. The choice of Damon as lead actor was inspired because there are very few actors who can play a person with no feelings, yet evoke sympathy in an audience. As he did in The Talented Mr Ripley, and more recently, The Departed, Damon plays a corrupt, abhorrent individual who remains quite human and allows his audience to sympathise with his situations.

While I’m sure the epic nature of the film was intentional, it is difficult to ignore the nagging feeling that if Mr. De Niro didn’t wear the crown of “The Greatest Actor Who Ever Lived”, the film would have been cut down to the two hours it should have been. At three hours, it moves along far too slowly and although the story is intriguing, it feels slightly vain to move the story along at such a painfully slow pace.

However, if you can sit through the first half, you will most certainly be so intrigued that the second half will fly by. The fluidity and layered texture of Eric Roth’s screenplay is captivating and as the story unravels, the film begins to feel like an enormous success.

With such a huge ensemble cast which includes Joe Pesci, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Michael Gambon and an outstanding Billy Crudup, it is difficult not to be impressed with this film on some level. Overall, however, the film is over-long and drags in a few too many places. I recommend it for those patient souls who enjoy a smoky political thriller but who are willing to sacrifice three hours of their busy life in order to do so. A tough journey, but worth the investment.

- Charlene Lydon

No comments:

Post a Comment