Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Good Shepherd


Robert De Niro wanted this to be a sort of Godfather of the CIA, an epic covering a lot of time about a mysterious organization. And there are a lot of similarities between the Company and the Cosa Nostra, except the Mob whacks mostly people who the world is better off without, and the CIA whacks elected heads of state and entire countries. You tell me who is worse.

One reviewer asked a question something like “Where is James Bond when we need him?” Well, he’s in the funny pages, where he belongs. There never has been and never will be a secret agent like Bond, thankfully, but the real spies are much, much worse than our Jimmie. Spying is the dirtiest business on the planet. Nobody comes away unsoiled. Nobody retires with his soul intact. You are in the business of lying, betrayal, treason, and blackmail. Those are the tools of the trade, and a sense of humanity doesn’t enter into it. You may say you are doing it for your country—and in time of war, I have to swallow hard and say that, yes, it’s necessary—but nobody ever disbanded a spy organization (we have at least 16 of them in the US, and none of them like any of the others), and they will always find work to do, and justify it in the “national interest.”

This movie follows a man played by Matt Damon from his days at Yale to his involvement in the Bay of Pigs. At Yale he joins the most despicable group of power-mad frat boys ever conceived for the sons of rich folks: Skull and Bones (once known as The Brotherhood of Death, did you know that?). From there he joins the wartime OSS, then into the infant CIA. He has no home life and very little emotion.

The movie makes a lot of good points about the filth these people swim in every day, and the godlike powers they assume over the lives of others. But it makes them slooooowly. The pacing is way off; even I was beginning to wish for Mr. Bond to come bursting through a window with one of his outlandish gadgets and start kicking some ass. Tense, engrossing movies can be made about complicated stories that involve no violence at all (such as All the President’s Men), but this isn’t one of them. The sound is so congealed with other noise—and I know, a point was being made about how much of spying is about filtering out the noise, the lies, to get to the bottom of things, but really!—that I had to go to Wiki after I’d seen the movie to find out what I’d seen.