The Good Shepherd

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Adam Lenhardt, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. David James

    David James Stunt Coordinator

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    My wife and I went to see The Good Shepherd this evening. Anyone expecting a typical Damon, De Niro, Jolie film will be disappointed. The same if you're expecting a spy thriller.

    Yes, this movie could have been cut down to 90 minutes but I think the "extra" stuff is in there for a reason. I suspect the movie plays out much like intelligence work plays out in real life. Things aren't tied up in neat bows, plot lines don't always play out the way we would expect or sometimes don't play out at all.

    I don't think De Niro tried to create a blockbuster. I think he tried to make a realistic movie about the early years of the CIA. During a complicated time, politically speaking. I think he wanted to make a movie about the intelligence activities of that era, that didn't look like a Hollywood movie.

    I think he succeeded, we liked the movie.
     
  2. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    I just took it to be just life in the intelligence biz, and that everyone could be exploited and blackmailed if they allowed themselves to be caught in compromising situations. In a paranoia-filled line of work for spy vs. spy, spies are always wanting to get leverage to turn other spies and influential people, rather than just elminate them. In the end, Wilson did lose a lot of personal relationships in service to his country, it was the lessons he had to learn the hard way.
     
  3. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I agree. But I saw the movie cature that elsewhere. This and a couple other story points where left hanging. In my view (and to borrow from Flatliners), in a perfect movie, everything matters. No plot detail will remain disconnected from the larger narrative.

    The Good Shepherd, IMO, needs further editing and refinement. It's not bad -- I generally enjoyed the movie scene by scene. But the ending left me partly dissatisfied. I wanted a tighter resolution: who, if anyone, was blackmailing Wilson? How did Joe Pesci's Italian serve our country? And so on.
     
  4. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    I kinda disagree on the "perfect movie" bit because stray moments of life that filter into a film that has no "impact" on the story still gives credence to the world the film sets out to create for its characters and the larger story, and the smaller chapters. I guess I'm at the point in my movie-watching that I don't have the need to have every subplot tied up in a neat bow by the end of the film, as long as the subplots support the world the writer/director are trying to create for the viewer.
     
  5. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    He didn't. But it's pretty well established that the CIA "consulted" with mob figures about efforts to overthrow Castro, for precisely the reason stated in the movie (and dramatized in Godfather 2): the loss of valuable hotels and casinos when Castro took power.

    Within the film, though, the scene with Pesci serves a different purpose. It's the only time we see Wilson have a "business" conversation with someone who isn't from the government or intelligence community and who doesn't abide by the same rules of conversational engagement. So Pesci's mobster is quite willing to confront Wilson directly about what he does and why he does it. This, in turn, elicits the most direct statement we ever get from Wilson about his role in America -- and it isn't a pretty picture.

    I found that scene to be one of the best and most important in the film.

    M.
     
  6. ErichH

    ErichH Screenwriter

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    Agree - Very nice work in this one. The attitude and pace fit the time period IMO.
    After reading some reviews at RottenTomatoes, I think some people have a hard time breaking away from James Bond or Bourne long enough to enjoy this one.

    Since Angelton's story is so secret, and many of the parameter events are not, it was interesting to see how the screenplay toyed with one perception of how a small portion of his life might have gone down.

    With Coppola's quiet hand in the background, this was a pleasure to experience.

    E
     
  7. Claire Panke

    Claire Panke Second Unit

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    Hmmm...I think Patrick, Michael, Erich and I saw a different movei than some of you.

    Patrick, I agree with your review and comments 100%.

    Apparently some of you thought this movie was going to be a thriller, so I can see why it didn't meet your expectations. And although I thought it was a wee bit long (Cut to 90 minutes! You gotta be kidding!) I still felt DeNiro did a fine job with an outstanding cast and excellent script.

    Seriously - you other guys didn't draw any parallels between the perceived perils of the time and the culture of the CIA then and perceived perils of our time and the CIA and national character now???? You didn't?????

    I wasn't bored during TGS for a single minute. (Does that make me a policy wonk?)
     
  8. ErichH

    ErichH Screenwriter

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    A little research into James Angelton goes a long way before or after seeing this.

    The film makers had no desire to dress the screenplay for today's desensitized audience. It's 1950s-60s OSS paranoia. Back then it was scary stuff to some people.
    With any period work, it helps if you're in the mood to go there with the story tellers.

    And Claire, yes there were a few nice Jabs at the current admins - the dialog at the end of the torture scene for instance.
    The Skull & Bones parties are too obvious.

    E
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I'd have to watch the movie again, because I still don't understand how that scene served the story. It didn't seem to connect properly to the overall story. And as a sub-story, it seemed a middle without start or finish.

    Douglas Adams noted that most of life makes for poor storytelling: event s are usually missing a good beginning, or middle, or satisfying end. The Good Shepherd feels like many such events were used for the movie. While it's a real depiction of life and history, I find it makes for an incomplete movie.

    I don't wish to be wholly negative. There was much to like. In particular, the performances were marvelous. Damon in particular continues to demonstrate his excellence.
     
  10. Jeff

    Jeff Supporting Actor

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    Don't even bother with the DVD. This is one of the worst movies I've seen in awhile. An hour and twenty minutes in to it and I fell asleep. Since seeing movies in the 70's, it's only the third movie where I've snoozed.


    Jeff
     
  11. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    And that resulting statement should be stating the obvious for anyone with a firm grasp of history. These are well-bred, highly educated men. If such self-awareness didn't exist, they'd be even worse at their jobs than the movie showed they already were. I was glad the scene was there — Joe Pesci's character was the only one in this dire, lifeless picture with any spark to him — but I don't think it was saying anything the rest of the movie wasn't already saying. Made a great line for the trailer, though.
     
  12. Dennis Castro

    Dennis Castro Second Unit

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    A friend and I were coming out of the theater after the film. A guy taps me on the shoulder from behind. He goes..."Excuse me sir, you dropped your dollar on the floor."

    My friend and I just kind of looked at each other like whoa...Wait a minute!!! LOL!!!
     
  13. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Now, maybe the dangerous arrogance of that line should be obvious to anyone with a "firm grasp of history", but judging from some of the comments in this thread, that apparently isn't the case.

    M.
     
  14. UngersPride

    UngersPride Stunt Coordinator

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    I was looking forward to seeing this film. A film directed by Deniro about the CIA.

    What is my opinion?

    7.4/10

    At almost 3 hours long I found it boring....

    It essentially purports to be a story about the formation of the CIA and goes from 1939 until about 1961.

    It is a film that is neither very good, nor very bad; essentially, it is a good film, that is done in a competent manner. All the characters wear trench coats, they smoke, and they all *talk in whispers*, because that is what people working in the CIA do....

    Damon is a one-dimensional character who walks slowly, never smiles, and always has that "I work for the CIA" look on his face....

    Maybe it's because I've read a lot about the CIA, or maybe it's because the film tries to cover too much ground, but I found that this film felt like a sanitized version of what a movie about the CIA should be about.

    I have no quibble with what the movie includes. However, I find it odd with what it fails to include.

    Here is just one among many things it fails to include:

    In 1945, we learn in the film that the USA wants to bring German scientists to America for their information. This is historically correct. This would have have been fertile ground to explore in-depth in the film, but it is glossed over fairly quickly.

    What is NOT mentioned in the film, and which is well documented, is that during the closing days of WWII, and during the CIA's early formation, almost the entire WWII-era Nazi Intelligence Service (involving thousands of nazi spies and operatives), especially that portion that was operating throughout eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, was incorporated wholesale within the fledgling CIA apparatus.

    What does this mean? It means that thousands of former Nazis (many of whom were wanted as war criminals) were incorporated within the US spy apparatus throughout Europe and America. Over the years they became integrated within the CIA and within the social/political fabric of the west.

    This same CIA is still operating today.

    If the CIA has had problems over the years, maybe this gives us a hint as to one possible source for those problems....

    Here is more information:

    "The key figure on the German side of the CIA-Nazi tryst was General Reinhard Gehlen, who had served as Adolf Hitler's top anti-Soviet spy. During World War II, Gehlen oversaw all German military-intelligence operations in Eastern Europe and the USSR.

    "As the war drew to a close, Gehlen surmised that the U.S.-Soviet alliance would soon break down. Realizing that the United States did not have a viable cloak-and-dagger apparatus in Eastern Europe, Gehlen surrendered to the Americans and pitched himself as someone who could make a vital contribution to the forthcoming struggle against the Communists. In addition to sharing his vast espionage archive on the USSR, Gehlen promised that he could resurrect an underground network of battle-hardened, anti-Communist assets who were well placed to wreak havoc throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

    "Although the Yalta Treaty stipulated that the United States must give the Soviets all captured German officers who had been involved in "eastern area activities," Gehlen was quickly spirited off to Fort Hunt in Virginia. The image he projected during 10 months of negotiations at Fort Hunt was, to use a bit of espionage parlance, a "legend"--one that hinged on Gehlen's false claim that he was never really a Nazi, but was dedicated, above all, to fighting Communism. Those who bit the bait included future CIA director Allen Dulles, who became Gehlen's biggest supporter among American policy wonks."

    Read the full article by the award-winning journalist and author, Martin Lee:

    http://www.fpif.org/commentary/0105spy.html

    Operation PaperClip:

    http://newsmine.org/archive/coldwar-...-paperclip.txt


    If you are going to rent this movie I would also suggest renting JFK: The Director's Cut and Thirteen Days as companion viewing.
     
  15. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    This movie was very dry for me. Not good, not bad. Just dry.
     
  16. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Wow what a fine movie. This lukewarm thread kept me away from it till now -- a shame. Very reminiscent of a John Le Carre book, in the sense that this felt more real and compelling than most treatments of the subject matter. Right now I can't think of a film with a better insight into the world of intelligence.

    I never felt the runtime. This may be the first time I find Angelina Jolie attractive. My only disappointment is De Niro's very short screen time, a cameo really.

    --
    H
     
  17. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I'm with Michael and a few others, I think this was one of the finest films from last year and I wasn't bored for one moment. DeNiro did a fine job with this film and I felt that Damon had one of his best acting performances by underplaying his role so effectively. His performance is very telling when you remember Ulysses saying early in the film that Mother is going to be a tough adversary.



    Crawdaddy
     
  18. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    My wife and son and me - we finally got to see this movie (on HD DVD: played flawlessly, thank you).
    When it was over we hadn't realized we sat there 2 hours and 48 minutes. What a great movie and, of course, what a great cast.

    Yes, it takes it's time to introduce us properly to all of the characters and plot lines, and it should. Every minute serves a goal. There's also a very strong plot line, from the beginning to the end, of the mysterious filmed scene they try to unravel, which appears to be carrying the very essence of this film's message. About how the Service operates. But mostly about the choices, the decisions, the morals and the life of these people like Edward Wilson. As a result the film has a very strong structure and doesn't feel for a moment to wander around.

    Matt Damon is terrific, another of his excellent performances. So are many others, an exceptionally strong cast (I don't think your agent is going to hold off lightly if called by Robert De Niro).
    After the end we were silent for several minutes.

    And I have to agree with Michael about that central line. The first word in it is perhaps the most shocking one.That would be because of the almost innocent and certainly unintended arrogance with which it is telling how he fundamentally sees his world.

    A brilliant movie. Need to see it again soon.


    Cees
     
  19. Joe D

    Joe D Supporting Actor

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    I thought this was a very well thought out film.

    I know a lot of people had a problem with the pacing of the film, but thought it worked well. I knew going in that it was leisurely paced so that probably helped.

    The music and the cinematography of the film helped create tension throughout the film.

    The ending was also great with:

    Matt Damon effectively signing his life away to the agency
     
  20. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

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    A terrific film for those with patience and an interest in the subject matter. Probably the only film to extensively examine the bureaucratic side of spy work, which is equally compelling, if not more so, than the side we're all used to seeing. The moral and ethical dilemmas forced onto the Damon character are extremely fascinating, particualarly how he chooses to act in a variety of situations. How very few films there are about quiet, thinking men- this was a huge, welcome surprise. DeNiro's direction is assured and confident, especially with editing- the methodical pacing is perfect and actually quite enjoyable; Robert Richardson's cinematgraphy is stunning, as usual. The subtlety of the Damon performance is masterful, and at times astounding. Subtle performances like these are the ones that get overlooked. Highly recommended if you're in the right mood.

    Regards,
    Nathan
     

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