Tuesday 18th January 2022

The Good Shepherd (15)
Directed by: Robert De Niro
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

Robert De Niro makes his second appearance behind the camera with this film, following his directorial debut in 1993 with the underrated A Bronx Tale. He has assembled a great cast, featuring the likes of Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Michael Gambon, John Turturro, Alec Baldwin, Joe Pesci and, of course, himself. So with all that talent involved, what could go wrong?

Spying is all about the over-sized trenchcoat and the "Judge Doom" stare
Spying is all about the over-sized trenchcoat and the "Judge Doom" stare

Well, for starters, the storyline is intriguing, but ultimately predictable and unfulfilling. Damon plays Edward Wilson, an American college graduate who is drawn into the CIA during the Second World War and gradually rises up through the ranks as we get closer to the Cuban Missile Crisis. He is taught that he can trust no one and soon information and disinformation becomes his life. The story is told through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, all jumbled together, making it difficult to tell when the "present" is supposed to be, but over the course of the film we get a very thorough picture of Wilson's life.

Part of the reason the picture is so thorough, is that this film is getting on for three hours long, and it is all about Edward Wilson. It is very slow-paced and there is little to no action. In the world of spies and intrigue, things happen slowly and quietly. The intricacies of the story, of which there are many, are very interesting, and if you can concentrate hard enough for the duration of the film, you won't be bored. However, it is easy to miss a detail or two here and there and find yourself confused about what is going on. In that respect, a second viewing of The Good Shepherd will lead to a better understanding of all the events in the film, but who has the time for that?

Stylistically, this is as close to The Godfather as you can get. It too is the story of one man alone against conspiring enemies, not being able to spend the time that he needs to with his family, subterfuge and death are rife and all this leads to a tense atmosphere throughout. With De Niro directing and Francis Ford Coppola producing, I suppose that shouldn't have come as a surprise. What is surprising is that this is not based on a book. It absolutely reeks of a Graham Greene adaptation, but in fact was written by Eric Roth, the co-writer of the equally long and bloated Munich.

So while the story is intriguing and the tension is palpable throughout, it's all a bit too predictable and unoriginal to make it worth investing the time. The plot twists can be seen coming (and there's plenty of time in which to see them coming) so even if you are a die-hard cold-war spy-nut, you probably won't find anything new in this film.

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Length: 167 minutes
Certificate: 15
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 23rd February 2007

Top Five Rating: 70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0% (70.0%)
User Rating: 80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0%80.0% (80.0%)

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