Friday, June 14, 2013

The Good Shepherd - Movie Review

This one is full of big stars - Matt Damon, Anjelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro, William Hurt - and claims to be the Godfather of spy movies. With little action and much inner dialogue, the film may appear slow, but somehow, in Director Robert De Niro's hands, it possesses enough energy in every scene to make you want to find out what happens till the end. It succeeds as a good movie in my definition as it disturbs and leaves behind a slow impact. That feeling of dullness of pain, of a job with no real end, of spying in the CIA, and we feel the sense of weariness and entrapment that Matt Damon feels by the end. Unconventional but brilliant and a good one for Robert De Niro who not only directed it but produced it as well.

Told from the perspective of a bright young man from Yale, Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) who rises to be one of the main counter intelligence operatives and a founding member of the CIA, it starts with the embarrassing failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion that was initiated by CIA. Cuba, under the Soviet friendly Castro, beats the invaders who were backed by the US government, in three days. Heads are set to roll - mainly that of Edward Wilson - as they know that there has been a leak from within. A photograph and a audio reel sent to Edward Wilson give some information about the possible traitor. As Wilson tries to find out who the traitor was who leaked information from such a closely held group, his past flashes back, showing him as a Yale student, as a member of the famous Skull and Bones society, as an early recruit for the OSS and then the CIA. His young and idealistic world soon becomes silent, dark and full of secrets, a world where one cannot trust anyone. His wife is distanced by his coldness and feels ignored, his son is scared forever and is always trying to win his cold father's approval. As Edward tries to get to the bottom of the betrayal he finds some uncomfortable truths. Truths that require radical decisions. Decisions that may prove to him that he has lost his soul as his old professor had warned.

It is a film unlike most. Rober De Niro assumes that the audience is intelligent and goes about telling the story at a fast pace, letting us figure out the gaps, the nuances. And even as he does, we get the soul of the film intact, even though we may not get everything that happens in a rather complex tale that spans a two decade period across several continents, across groups as diverse as counter intelligence officials, foreign officials, spies and moles, Nazi officers wishing to defect and his own loves and family. Passes my standard for a good movie - it kept me wanting to watch it till the end despite a rather tired state of mind. Good stuff. Matt Damon is brilliant. Robert De Niro steals every scene he is in.

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