Good Shepherd, the - Counting Sheep

Duration: 130min
Category: drama
Available: On DVD
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I have never seen such competent film makers produce something as awkward as this.

“Awkward” is the best word I can use to describe The Good Shepherd, Robert De Niro’s second foray into directing. The Good Shepherd is the life story of a CIA man and chronicles how the agency takes over his life. It stars the normally strong Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, Billy Crudup and John Turturro. It even features a cameo by De Niro himself. However, it’s almost uncomfortable watching these people flounder around in this film.

Damon, who has the stifled, conflicted and flawed hero character nailed in most of his flicks, walks around like a wooden statue through most of this film. His idea of portraying repression seems to be wide eyed stares.

Jolie seems even more out of place. She tries to play the girl-next-door type with no success, leaping from no emotion to high drama in 2 seconds or less. Her presence, along with the other big name cameos, was distracting, taking us out of the movie and breaking the narrative.

Everyone in the cast seems like they are in the wrong film. Even De Niro seems like he’s reading his lines of cue cards. Did he learn that from Brando?

The story itself is awkward. De Niro tries to tell the tale by flashing back through Damon’s story while he is trying to unravel a mystery. He never quite gets it right. Despite dates and place appearing on the screen, the film falters to find a sense of cohesiveness. De Niro crafts such beautiful scenes but flounders in putting them together.

This is also hampered by the way the The Good Shepherd fetishizes intrigue. De Nero seems fascinated with lies, deception, codes and double-crosses. There is so much “funny business” going on and so much jumping back and forth through time that the audience has to be quite invested in the story to keep its interest. Unfortunately, the film just isn’t that engaging.

It ends up being a simple story of a man’s dedication biting him in the ass. Damon isn’t powerful enough to make us care and the story is too artificially convoluted to keep us occupied. Plus there is this score that is filled with a heightened and false sense of urgency that is relentless. It never gives you a break.

The Good Shepherd isn’t really that good although it’s not terribly bad either. It’s just, well… awkward and I would expect more from this group.

Review By: Collin Smith

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