Nick and I went to see The Good Shepherd, the new film by Robert De Niro the other night.
The word on the street is that it's a very long and quite dull film. But then again, the word on the street goes to see Norbit. De Niro's painstakingly methodical manner is often described like that of a brick layer. He patiently builds his wall piece by piece, and you the finishing block can't be in place until the others are. As a director, The Good Shepherd typifies this.
Yes it is long, clocking in at 167 minutes (plus all the ads and trailers you have to watch) you need to set aside some an evening. But it doesn't drag. De Niro takes his time to develop the story, the plot makes no assumptions and ends when it should and no earlier.
The story charts the development of the America's first integrated intelligence organisation, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) on the eve of the country's entry into the Second World War and of its successor, the infinitely more powerful CIA, at the beginning of the Cold War in 1947.
Matt Damon brilliantly plays a grey and serious Edward Wilson, who while at Yale joins the exclusive Skull and Bones fraternity and is recruited to the OSS. A week before he is posted overseas Wilson is forced to marry a girl he's only just met (Angelina Jolie) in a shotgun union. He learns of the birth of his son and his subsequent five years over a crackling line in war-torn Europe.
The film unfolds in flashback from the CIA-engineered Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961. Wilson moves from Skull and Bones secret supremacy easily to into another in the service of his country during the Second World War. Deception and deceit become forms of truth in the espionage business, and suspicion eventually develops into paranoia as the war against the Nazis is replaced by the Cold War.
It's a great film. Trust, love and destiny are the central themes as Wilson tries to protect his son from making the same mistakes he did, as he too becomes a Bones man and is invited to join the CIA. "Trust no one" is the mantra of the spies, yet they find they can love no one and fear of ultimately dying alone in a strange city with no friends. There is far too much material in this deeply engrossing film to touch on here, but suffice to say, you are unlikely to see another film as well thought out meticulously assembled as this. I hope Bobby makes a few more.
Watch the trailer