The Good Shepherd
starring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Tammy Blanchard, Robert De Niro, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, timothy Hutton, Joe Pesci and John Turturro
written by Eric Roth
directed by Robert De Niro
I suppose Robert De Niro has directed many things by this point in his career, but this is the first film I have seen for which I was aware that De Niro was the director. Matt Damon turns in a great performance as an American intelligence officer, first in the Second World War OSS, and later the CIA that grew out of the OSS. He is a man too taciturn for his own good. But verbal reticence is a big plus in the game of government secrets.
Most interesting is the portrayal of the boys’ club culture of prestigious east coast university fraternities and how their members move in privileged circles of inherited wealth, inherited business and political connections and military culture. Specifically is the role of the Skull and Bones fraternity of Yale University, a somewhat notorious fraternity that has a reputation for listing a lot of Grade A assholes in its brotherhood - many young men who went on to renown careers in business and politics, included the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.
Don’t confuse this film with the Christian Slater movie of the same title, directed by Lewin Webb and co-starring Molly Parker, Gordon Pinsent and Stephen Rea. That was a film about issues like homosexuality, child abuse and the Catholic priesthood - quite timely in contemporary society.
But I remain confused about the meaning of “The Good Shepherd” in this Damon spy movie. What does it mean? Does it mean that as the head of field operations for the CIA Damon’s character was the secret shepherd guiding his country through the evil seas or predatory international communism during the Cold War? It’s all a little vague.