Richly detailed and expertly produced, if hellishly long and unbearably slow, Robert De Niro´s The Good Shepherd reaches a certain level of admiration even if it´s – at times – quite difficult to sit through.
Matt Damon stars as Edward Wilson, head of covert CIA operations during the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961; as the operation fails and he searches a mole, we look at the major events of his life, from his father´s suicide to his strained relationship with his own son, most of it transpiring during the rise of the Central Intelligence Agency.
But these CIA men (played by Damon, De Niro, William Hurt, Alec Baldwin, etc.) are so entirely lacking in emotional depth that we may as well be watching the Agent Smith clones from The Matrix Revolutions.
Supporting players come off best, and often lend the film a human element sorely missing from the characters central to the plot.
These include Tammy Blanchard as Wilson´s deaf girlfriend, Angelina Jolie as his wife, Joe Pesci as a Hyman Roth-like Miami businessman (albeit extremely brief, it´s his first film role in eight years), and a pair of potential Russian agents played by John Sessions and Oleg Shtefanko.
There are a number of terrific scenes, including an extended interrogation where LSD is employed; those interested in the history of the CIA will find a lot of value here. Others may be bored to tears.