Complete A-Z list

Good Shepherd, The


Stars: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, William Hurt, Michael Gambon, Timothy Hutton, Keir Dullea

Director: Robert De Niro

This story of one man's employment, first in American wartime intelligence, then in its offshoot, the CIA, would be heavy going at any length, let alone nearly three hours. The acting is as soulless as the characters, and some of the distinguished cast, including director De Niro, might as well be reading off cue cards.

Into poetry and dramatics at university, Edward Wilson (Damon) becomes a member of the Skull and Bones Society, the seed for all future American intelligence, and is soon recruited into the OSS.

His personal life takes the same cold course, when his idealistic romance with a deaf girl (Tammy Blanchard - the only sympathetic character in the film) is terminated by his seduction at the hands of a party girl (Jolie), whose resultant pregnancy forces him into a loveless marriage.

He soon becomes a 'silent man, made of stone', adrift in a world of betrayal and concealed identity. The story reaches its peak, if you can call it that, with his involvement in the Bay of Pigs disaster of 1962, when America's plans to invade Cuba are leaked to the Russians.

The film never crystallises the problems it raises and, despite one or two striking photographic effects, remains at a cool distance almost throughout. It does, however, boast an appearance by De Niro's Goodfellas buddy Joe Pesci after an absence of some years - an old horse whistled back from the meadow for one last gallop.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
167 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 17 Feb 2007