The Secret's Out

'Good Shepherd' star Matt Damon's performance gives life to this torpid tale of espionage

December 22, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

There's a great, taut, jet-black satire hidden at the center of The Good Shepherd, Robert De Niro's anemic epic about the founding of the Office of Strategic Services before the Second World War and the OSS' postwar transformation into the Central Intelligence Agency. The government and military gamble that men with old school backgrounds will have a deeper emotional investment in their country and fewer conflicts about protecting it than more recent immigrants. They want the reliability of a rock-ribbed bank. Instead they get hubris and incompetence.

The characters parody the nastiness that can fester beneath upper-crust WASP reserve, whether because of greed, lust, envy or an overblown sense of entitlement. Scrape off the John le Carre-like spy vs. spy intrigue

The Good Shepherd (Universal) Starring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Tammy Blanchard, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, William Hurt. Directed by Robert De Niro. Rated R. Time 160 minutes.

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