A very powerful film that will be seen as a classic in 10 years.
Not enough special features.
The Good Shepherd is a very intricate look at the formation of the CIA through the eyes of Edward Wilson (Matt Damon). Wilson is a smart, seemingly average sort of man who, through the group Skull and Bones, ends up being recruited to run an organization that looks after America's interests overseas. While this recruitment is happening Wilson, in the midst of another relationship, has a liaison with friends sister (Angelina Jolie), and upon hearing that she is pregnant marries her. Wilson then goes overseas for 6 years where he learns some harsh lessons about who he can and can't trust.
Upon returning to America he finds that he is estranged from his wife and son, but he is soon contacted by General Bill Sullivan (Robert DeNiro), and informed that the powers that be would like Sullivan to continue his work but in the United States. As this was the time of the Cold War, we see many dealings and double dealings with Russian Spies, and we also get a glimpse of how torture tactics began to be implemented. Also, we see how the CIA, because it acts so covertly, was allowed to run wild in such a way that those in charge could do almost anything they wanted.
In the end (which is actually where this story begins), we see how the Bay of Pigs ended up being compromised. In fact the whole story of The Good Shepherd has Wilson piecing together just how this was allowed to happen. At 2 hours and 48 minutes, this film is a very interesting and provocative look at innocence not only lost, but completely mangled before it's utter obliteration.
There are 16 minutes worth of these on this DVD and there are 7 scenes in total. They have titles like "Edward and Ray Pack Office" and "Edward Asks Valentin to Play the Violin." These are all very nicely put together. They are in the same aspect ratio as the film, they seem cleaned up, and I honestly think they could have made their way into the film (hey at 2 hours and 48 minutes what's an extra 16, right?) If you are a fan of this movie you most certainly want to check these out. What impressed me most is how tonally they correct they seemed with the rest of the film.
Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.40:1. This film looked incredible. It is very rigid in how the shots were composed. There is an eery darkness to each shot, with very few scenes taking place outdoors. This was most likely done to enhance the covert and claustrophobic nature of this film's subject matter. However, the costumes, the sets and the way the characters looked never seemed like I was watching a movie. This film is constructed to completely take you into this world. The DVD transfer was really pristine and I had the benefit of screening portions of it on both small and big televisions. It is understandable why they have called The Good Shepherd "The Godfather of CIA movies."
English and French Dolby Digital. Subtitled in English, Spanish and French. When this movie started, I was a little nervous just because everybody was talking in a drab, monotone-styled voice. I know that they were trying to make the CIA seem like drones but this was ridiculous. However, once the movie went back into Edward Wilson's past, we were taken on a very long journey and we slowly see how these people (Edward included) have become what they've become. The audio on the whole, even though it was done in a very measured way, was top notch. To be able to follow this story as easily as I did is a real testament the sound department's solid work.
This front cover has two images. One is of Matt Damon's eye with a bunch of paperwork and the CIA seal laid over it. The bottom portion of this cover showcases Damon, DeNiro and Jolie and this seems like it was probably done to spur DVD sales. The back portion features a bunch of files, interspersed with shots from this movie, as well as a gun. Underneath that is a bonus features listing, a succinct description of this film, a cast list, and system specs. Something tells me, a Special Edition release, with more elaborate packaging, can't be too far off.
I loved this movie.
I had heard from a lot of people that it wasn't good, that it was too long, that nothing really happens in it, and in the first 10 minutes of the movie I was inclined to believe those who had told me this. Then, once this movie delved into Edward Wilson's past, everything that I had just seen began to make sense. This movie is, at it's basest level, a film about corruption. It looks at corrupted ideals, corrupted morals and corrupted values. It examines how people take things that are very simple and very pure and ultimately corrupt them. What is so sad is not that only that this happens, not only how it happens, but the fact that it is almost bound to happen. It's as if nothing really good and special can ever stay that way, no matter what your intentions are.
The Good Shepherd is a very layered, very detailed and a very fine tuned look at the formation of the CIA. When you consider that this is Robert DeNiro's second film, that makes the leap he took from A Bronx Tale seem astronomical. This isn't a slag on the former movie. That film is quite good. However, it takes place in a contained section of New York City. The Good Shepherd is epic in it's scope and grandeur.
If you want to see a movie that should have been up for Best Picture, you would do well to watch The Good Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd was released December 11, 2006.