The Good Shepherd
Time Out says
A CliffsNotes recap of counterintelligence skullduggery, Robert De Niro’s sophomore directorial effort condenses the CIA’s long history of dirty tricks into a single spy’s downward spiral. Edward Wilson (Damon) is the sort of Yalie who gets cherry-picked for Skull and Bones membership and attracts a shrill, shrewish wife (Jolie); he’s also emotionally sealed off enough to pique the interest of “Wild” Bill Sullivan (De Niro), who recruits the student for the government’s new special-operations division. Wilson works his way up the ranks as the Agency puts the Communists in the crosshairs, but when both sides’ spooks run wild over the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, he’s got to find out who spilled the beans. The answer, naturally, isn’t pretty.
Despite focusing on one important cog in the Company machine, De Niro is still set on utilizing an epic canvas. The film shuffles liberally through decades (a sequence set during the Kennedy administration might segue into WWII shenanigans or a ’30s outing on Deer Island) and deftly shuttles between Cuba, the Congo and various other Cold War hot spots, treating the formation of the intelligence community to a grand, expansive mythologizing usually reserved for La Cosa Nostra. De Niro juggles the myriad big-picture parts with reserved professionalism; it’s the central character, ironically, that’s the movie’s Achilles’ heel. Damon and the director make Wilson an enigmatic iceberg from the get-go, and he’s poker-faced to a fault. There’s no sense that this Candide of the espionage world has lost innocence or ideology; how can someone sell his soul when you haven’t given him a discernible soul to squander in the first place? (Opens Fri 22; Click here for venues.) — David Fear