Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense

Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro star in this powerful thriller about the birth of the CIA. Edward Wilson (Damon) believes in America, and will sacrifice everything he loves to protect it. But as one of the co...  more »


Larger Image

Movie Details

Similar Movies

Widescreen Edition
Director: Billy Ray
   PG-13   2007   1hr 50min
Director: Stephen Gaghan
   R   2006   2hr 8min
The Company
Director: Mikael Salomon
   NR   2007   4hr 46min
Widescreen Edition
Director: Steven Spielberg
   R   2006   2hr 44min
Charlie Wilson's War
   R   2008   1hr 42min

Movie Reviews

Cold Warrior....
Archmaker | California | 12/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Good Shepherd is a very very good film that I would be reluctant to recommend to many because despite it having a fictionalized history of the genesis of the CIA as its setting, and its cold look at real spycraft, it is really a very quiet and cerebral character study of the sacrifices one man makes for the sake of his country, and the toll taken not only upon himself but also those around him by the life of duplicity, distrust, compromise and real betrayal that this engenders. I don't know how a 2-1/2 hour movie with so button-downed and taciturn a central character as Matt Damon's Edward Wilson will play in multiplex land, but I give all due credit to Damon for embodying this tightly-wrapped, detached man and Robert DeNiro as director for having the courage to center his film on such a cool and enigmatic protagonist.

Using the 1961 Cuban Bay of Pigs disaster as a framing device, we flashback to 1939 Yale and we see Damon's Edward Wilson as a young Eli soon to be inducted into Skull and Bones where he will join the American WASP elite. I'm glad DeNiro spends a bit of time here as we see Wilson as a brilliant and sensitive young man, seemingly with both heart and humor, with a potential to go in many directions in his life. A telling secret of his life is revealed in his Skull & Bones initiation, and soon, for several reasons, he is singled out for the World War II OSS clandestine service and sent to London, England. But not before impregnating the sister of one of his elite brethern and duly marrying her on the eve of his departure. This marriage will be costly to Edward immediately and eventually to his wife and son as the years progress.

Wartime London intrigue ensues and later postwar Berlin and the beginning of the Cold War. We watch as Edward not only learns his craft, but we see how he begins to shelve his emotions, tighten his grip on himself and don an impenetrable mask of detached stoicism. Edward Wilson is becoming "serious and humorless" and as he shuts-down only glimpses of the younger man appear. Through these scenes we also meet several key characters in the espionage game that will play important parts throughout the story, not the least being the man who will be Edward's opposite number in the KGB, code named Ulysses. The KGB man tells Edward he is code-named "Mother" and that his propensity for silence is noted and respected. Both men realize their opposite will be formidable and that this will be a very serious and deadly game they are about to play.

Edward returns home post-war to a marriage with a stranger, a son he doesn't relate well to and has little time for, and to the deadly games of the Cold War, dueling with the KGB in proxy wars around the world while coping with moles and betrayal and the internecine wars of bureaucracy. It all comes full circle in ways tragic and sad.

Matt Damon had an incredible challenge playing a man so closed that almost no one knows him. Apparently a composite of several early CIA founders, most notably the brilliant, mole-obsessed James Jesus Angleton, this character is a man that expects betrayal, can trust no one around him and ultimately cannot trust himself in the form of his own emotions. Damon somehow conveys the man's inner anguish without breaking his stern outer resolve. And yet we see flashes, glimpses of the man's regrets, of his lost capacity to love and give of himself.

There are coincidences and some doubtful scenes and situations that Edward particpates in or witnesses that seem a bit contrived but are necessary to broaden the scope of the film, and it is a truncated history by necessity. I can't speak to whether some of the methods and tactics as shown, in particular one interrogation scene, are accurate for the period, and the assertion by a defector that the Soviet Union is bankrupt and hollow rings false for 1961, but overall the mood and tone of the piece seems right. The nonchalance of the privileged elite in assuming leadership roles and the WASP heritage of the OSS and its offspring is presented well and no doubt persists into our world if you think of the Skull & Bones contest of the 2004 Presidential election.

At any rate, I applaud DeNiro and company for taking on such non-General audience material. This is John Le Carre territory, and has much more in common with the Alec Guinness versions of his spy stories as seen in the TV productions of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "Smiley's People", with an equally inscrutable central character, than Bourne or Bond or whatever. This is espionage carried out by a polyglot confusion of often damaged people: patriots, true-believers, careerists, liars, cheats, thieves, sadists and worse--the callous, greedy and corrupt. As one of them says spies are ultimately "romantics" and romantics are ever doomed to disappointment and failure. The DeNiro character (based on Wild Bill Donovan, founder and legend of OSS)says "in the end we're all clerks" or "bootmakers for the King" as another says.

Watching the idealism of Damon's Edward Wilson harden into the ruthless pragmatism of the cool and calculating ultimate bureaucrat was a chilling and worthwhile experience for me. It is a hard, often cruel world we live in, and the world these people inhabit is very hard indeed, and we cannot expect the people we ask to live there not to be somehow affected. Edward's final compromise with himself and his ideals is that he can make no compromise with who he is and what he does. They are now one and the same. Ideals have been replaced by sheer, rigorous efficiency, and conscience by lies within lies and secrets within secrets

The cast supporting Damon (Hurt, Turturro, Baldwin, Crudup, Jolie, Gambon et al)is fine. The production likewise. In an interview DeNiro said that he hopes to continue this story with at least one more film. I hope this one is successful enough that he gets the chance to do so, as I would like to see this story taken forward all the way up to our times. I remember when films like The Spy Who Came In From the Cold or All the President's Men could be hits. I hope this film can find its audience as well, for it is a fine effort."
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 12/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) is a somber, quiet man. Every morning he leaves his middle class home in the suburbs and along with his neighbors boards a bus for downtown D.C. But unlike his neighbors, who presumably work as office functionaries, Wilson is a top, experienced, "higher-up" for the C.I.A. and though, on the surface dressed exactly like his neighbors in felt fedora and Sears trench coats, Wilson is headed for the monolith that is the C.I.A. headquarters.
As written by Eric Roth and directed by Robert De Niro (De Niro's only other directing job was "A Bronx Tale"), "The Good Shepherd" traces the genesis of the C.I.A. as it evolves from the World War II O.S.S. and central to this terrific, fascinating, intelligently written and passionately directed movie is the story of Wilson himself and the ultimate tragedy of his life: a life that begins to unravel the moment he agrees to become a spy right out of college.
Wilson, as portrayed by Matt Damon is the perfect spy if there is such a thing: he is without humor, looks like a thousand other men, dresses like a small town banker and is passionate about only two things: his son and his miniature ship in a bottle hobby. And anytime he strays from these two things, as in women or sex, he fails miserably.
The world of Espionage is a dirty business, one that defies and twists the basic notions of truth, loyalty and pride. For Wilson there is almost no room for anything else: upon marrying he leaves his pregnant girlfriend, Clover(Angelina Jolie) for six years to serve in Europe without thinking about it twice. His life is his work and his work ultimately ruins his life by chipping away at the basic goodness and humanity that infuses his core self. By the end of this film, he is used up...hollow.
"The Good Shepherd" moves back and forward in time from Wilson's initiation into the Skulls and Bones at Yale through the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961 and though the running time is approximately three hours, you are never bored for on the one hand, De Niro keeps things moving quickly and on the other the subject matter is rife with conflict, mystery and operates on the very highest level of commitment and interest.
Le Carré, American Style
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 06/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Though not for all tastes, "The Good Shepherd" (2006) is an engrossing spy drama in the John le Carré tradition. Director Robert De Niro gets the most out of his well-cast ensemble, with Matt Damon remarkably effective as the emotionally cold CIA operative and co-founder. Running nearly three hours, the film's leisurely pace works in its favor - chronicling the CIA's evolution from 1939 to the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. Hopefully, De Niro will continue to explore this fascinating saga in his next directorial project."
A Masterpiece About Sacrifice
Andre Heeger | Germany | 08/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Not the typical spy movie, more a beautifully directed intense psychological drama.
Flashback: The six year old Edward Wilson watches his father prepare to commit suicide, although at that moment the boy doesn't realize it. His father discovers him, sends him away, closes the door and shoots himself. This traumatic experience ironically prepares Edward for a career in the CIA. It will take him around the globe, far away from home, maybe even away from his soul...
Edward (wonderfully portrayed by Matt Damon) is almost unable to show his true feelings. He talks very little, gives up his true love to stay with the woman who will give birth to his son (marvelous: Angelina Jolie).
For all of his life he will sacrifice everything around him to serve his country. It is all he has.
When, after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he is asked to find the mole in the organization, he begins to realize there is not anyone he can trust, never was. Not his father, not his university teacher, not his so-called friends, not even his super.
There might have been loved ones who could have saved him from all his internal misery: his first love, his wife, his son. But it is too late. He cannot trust and there is betrayal all around. It becomes clear that he never got over that terrible shock when he entered the room and found his father lying dead on the floor.
A wonderful film about fate and the choices we all make, where they lead us and what might have been had we taken another road...
The images are perfect, the actors magnificent, Robert De Niro's directing superb. A very complex must have to watch over and over again.
As to the length of the movie. I just noticed other reviewers had a problem with that. Not me. I never got bored for a second. I never even got pulled away from the storyline. Sure, it is 2 hours and 40 minutes long, but I didn't realize it until the credits started rolling.
As always (well, almost) the HD DVD's images are brilliant and the combo disc includes 16 minutes of deleted scenes (in HD), picture in picture access."