The Good Shepherd (2006)

Genre(s): Drama / Mystery
Universal || R - 168 minutes - $29.98 || April 3, 2007
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2007-03-30

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Robert De Niro
Writer(s): Eric Roth (written by)
Cast: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Tammy Blanchard, Billy Crudup, Robert De Niro, Keir Dullea, Martina Gedeck, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Lee Pace, Eddie Redmayne, John Sessions, Oleg Stefan, John Turturro, Joe Pesci

Theatrical Release Date: December 22, 2006

Supplemental Material:
  • Deleted Scenes

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.40:1)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.


Plot (from DVD back cover): Edward Wilson (Damon) believes in America, and will sacrifice everything he loves to protect it. However, as one of the covert founders of the CIA, Edwardís youthful idealism is slowly eroded by his growing suspicion of the people around him. Everybody has secrets... but will Edwardís destroy him?

The Good Shepherd has been heralded as a modern classic, an epic on the scale of The Godfather, well I think this had a chance to be a classic, but it falls short due to its sheer length. Robert De Niro is a fantastic actor and a fine director and bringing this A-list cast together makes Shepherd a worthy film, just not incredible.

Matt Damon (The Bourne Ultimatum) headlines a great cast and quietly transforms his character from idealistic to paranoid without stooping to the usual Hollywood clichťs -- a la The Skulls, a film that actually has a commonality with this. Itís not a perfect or award-worthy performance, not because Damon isnít good, but there are parts I had a hard time getting passed. The movie goes from the 1940s (the beginning of World War II) to the early/mid 1960s (Bay of Pigs, concerns about Cuba) yet Damon hardly looks like he aged, despite having a son in his late teens or early 20s.

The rest of the cast includes actors who are A-list talent and everyone seems to sacrifice screen-time for the opportunity to work with director Robert De Niro. Angelina Jolie (Alexander) as Damonís wife is suitable but ineffective, though I canít see anyone else doing better; Alex Baldwin (The Departed) plays Damonís FBI contact; Billy Crudup (Mission: Impossible III) portrays a British agent fighting behind the scenes during WWII. In addition, thereís still Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), William Hurt (Syriana) and Robert De Niro giving himself a few seconds onscreen in what is probably the ONLY part I found objectionable.

Playing General Bill Sullivan, the architect of the CIA, De Niroís character provides the cautionary tale to Wilson warning that the program could be misused and abused. Nothing wrong with that comment, but I donít think it was necessary to tie the creation of the CIA and the events going on today. I think it was already evident throughout the movie of how easy the agency could go off course.

De Niro as a director gives an atmosphere of intrigue and suspicion beginning with a storyline concerning a video Wilson received at his doorstep where he tries to find who is on the tape and where it was filmed. Using the time jumps, I wonder if De Niro hurt the movie as a whole. I think both tension and feelings toward these characters wouldíve grown if it was told more straight-forward. Itís not to say the jumps are jarring or donít meld together yet I think the story would have been more conducive to a better movie.

Due to its sheer length -- nearly three hours --, this isnít a movie that one will want to see very often. It is, however, a good movie for sure and if you can appreciate some great performances and, in the case of Matt Damon, a subtle one, youíll want to check this out.


Deleted Scenes (15:48) - The sole special feature is a set of deleted footage including a subplot concerning John, Cloverís brother, who was said to have been killed during the war. In a series of four scenes, he was actually a POW freed by the Russians but returns home under suspicion of espionage by the FBI and CIA. Overall, the scenes were excised for good reason as either it didnít advance the story or it was redundant. Having said that, the scenes were well acted and on their own are quite good.



The Good Shepherd is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1 OAR) and looks to be free of any scratches or dust. The transfer is well done and even the dark elements have a fin mixture of detail without over saturation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is perfectly suitable for a film like this as thereís no action and filled with a ton of dialogue. The beautiful (albeit forgettable) music score by Marcelo Zarvos and Bruce Fowler use the speakers well enough.


The Good Shepherd may not be a modern classic as promised by some critics, but it is at least an intriguing movie that can be looked at as a dramatic-mystery, pure pseudo-historical drama or a character drama.

This isnít a movie I will see too often but it does hold worthiness at least for Damonís subtle performance and certain story elements. If you like the cast and have a passing interest in the CIA, then give this a shot.