We gave it a B+
Matt Damon’s solemn, intuitive, emotionally restrained intelligence agent matches the qualities that dominate the Robert De Niro-directed The Good Shepherd. This two-and-three-quarter-hours-long saga of the early years of the CIA follows Damon’s Edward Wilson from his time at Yale pre-WWII to his recruitment into the then-nascent spook organization, culminating in his involvement in 1961’s Bay of Pigs invasion. For viewers all too familiar with pulse-pounding spy adventures like — well, like Damon’s Bourne franchise, Shepherd‘s calm meticulousness is tonic, as are the modulated performances by Damon, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, and De Niro himself. (Angelina Jolie is Damon’s too-hotsy-for-the-room wife. The avid Jolie may seem miscast in such a tamped-down film; actually, she captures unsatisfied sensuality perfectly.)
You have to reach back to 1965’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold to find an espionage yarn as quietly tense as Shepherd. While its theme may be familiar — a life spent keeping secrets rots the soul — the dramatization is never less than haunting. It’s no surprise that the taciturn De Niro didn’t provide a commentary, and the only DVD extras are 16 minutes of deleted scenes from an already-long movie. But they limn a nice little subplot about Jolie’s brother, himself a spy, that would have further explained the resentment Jolie’s character feels toward Damon.