The Good Shepherd
Unfortunately, the most
coherent thing which we
find out from The Good Shepherd is that the Central Intelligence
Agency was apparently founded by a bunch of uptight, repressed WASPs.
The film bounces back and
forth in time — covering the years from right before the US entrance into
World War II to the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Matt Damon plays Edward
(based loosely on CIA pioneer James Jesus
Angelton) a young poet and member of a secret society who
is recruited to join an early World War II espionage mission.
As far as we can tell all
he has to qualify him for the position is a complete ability to
compartmentalize his emotions and not betray (or perhaps even feel?) much of
anything. He has pretty much the same noncommittal poker face whether
he is learning of a friend's death, capturing a mole, having a woman he had
a foolish affair with wiped out, realizing his son has become a political
pawn or watching a suspect tortured.
In the meantime, spooks and
moles pop up and disappear for long stretches of time. There are so
many characters, so many lies and so many agendas being worked here that you
really need a scorecard to keep up. At different points Wilson seems
almost supernaturally observant and oddly naive and trusting.
The film has a wonderful
look and feel for its era; yet some things seem just wrong for the time
periods. For example, Angelina Jolie's predatory seduction of Wilson
— forcing them into decades of a loveless marriage — seems shockingly
forward for a woman in the early 1940s. The audience can see Angelina
doing it; it's just a lot harder to picture the character being so
sexually forward, particularly when we see how cold their relationship
becomes soon afterwards.
Wilson states late in the
film that he always wanted to be there for his slightly weak and nervous son
(Eddie Redmayne) due to his own childhood trauma — finding his own father (Timothy
Hutton) after he had committed suicide. Wilson spends decades covering for
his son and trying to protect him. This is certainly understandable as
a father — but we never really see the two of them relate in any truly
substantial way. Their relationship seems strained and unsure.
We never really see that Wilson cares that deeply for him — though except
for a few violent and uncharacteristic bursts of emotion in this film we
never get the feeling he cares much about anything.
Wilson seems the perfect
bureaucrat — detached, mannered, unfeeling and above all almost always in
control — which may make him an asset as a spy but it makes him a chore as
a character. It's hard to care what happens to him, because he almost
never allows you to see him caring himself. He is an enigma.
The Good Shepherd
is beautifully made and stuffed full of plot, and
yet it is stately to the point of distraction. Like its protagonist,
it is quiet, questing, cold and completely unable to express or even feel
emotions. Unfortunately, The Good
Shepherd takes over twenty years of espionage, lies, torture, misdirection,
and back-alley agreements and makes it just seem dull. (12/06)
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: March 24, 2007.