Movie Review – The Good Shepherd (2006)

Matt Damon plays a spy who is integral to the early life of the CIA. It’s a different character to Jason Bourne and after watching this and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy I’ve worked out that I much prefer the bombastic action of spy thrillers such as Bourne and Bond rather than the more subdued, realistic potrayals of the spy life in films such as The Good Shepherd.

It features a pretty good cast, aside from Damon there’s Angelina Jolie, Robert DeNiro, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon and others. All of them do decent jobs and I thought Jolie’s performance as the emotional, anguished wife was a nice contrast to her inwardly-focused husband. 

The story spanned a number of decades and flicked between the different time periods. Usually I don’t have a problem with keep track of different story threads, but in this film I found it quite difficult to keep track of everything that was going on. I was never entirely sure who they were investigating or what exactly was happening, so the film felt a little empty as I was always grasping for a central hook. For me that hook came late on as the main character’s profession and personal lives intertwined, and I found the family drama more interesting than the spy intrigue, but it was too little too late. 

There were clearly moments that were meant to evoke powerful emotions but everything was so subdued in the film that I never felt truly engaged. I felt that it lacked focus an at the end I was expecting some of the grander themes to tie in more neatly. As for the main character, well, Matt Damon is a brilliant actor and he gave a good performance here, but I think the fault lies with either the script or the direction. In a film such as this I think the protagonist is supposed to act as an anchor but because he was so withdrawn I couldn’t connect to him. 

So I wouldn’t say it was a bad movie, and if you’re interesting in this period of history and the spy world it would probably be of worth to you, but for me it was too long and not streamlined enough. 

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