“The birth of the CIA and the life journey of one of its founding operatives is a fascinating subject, [but] one that is done only lukewarm justice in The Good Shepherd,” writes Variety‘s Todd McCarthy. I can guess what the HE readership is thinking as they read this — give us rude, disturbing, irreverent, provocative or even gross….but please, please not lukewarm.
“Robert De Niro‘s second film as a director adopts a methodical approach and deliberate pace,” McCarthy continues, “in attempting to grasp an almost forbiddingly intricate subject, with a result that is not boring, exactly, but undeniably tedious.
“The long and short of the problem is that [De NIro] never finds a proper rhythm to allow the viewer to settle comfortably into what turns out to be a very long voyage. Like many films of the moment, this one keeps jumping around in time, not confusingly in the least, but in a way that has no natural flow to it. Tie that to a central character who defiantly offers no glimpse into his inner life and you have a picture that offers scant returns for the investment of time it requests of the viewer.
“Crucially missing is slowly building momentum, a firm hand on pace, a way to convey gradual moral decay and a talent for magisterial storytelling — gifts that are impossible to fake in the long run.
“Seemingly based in great measure on the ever-intriguing James Angleton, Matt Damon‘s Edward Wilson remains an opaque, impenetrable figure throughout, and neither actor nor script provides the subtext to reveal any layers of personality. Many of the supporting players provide welcome personal flavors, but thesping overall is restrained rather than flashy or deeply felt.”