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Movie Review

The Good Shepherd

MPAA Rating: R for some violence, sexuality and language

Reviewed by: Robert A. Kouba

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Spy, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Romance
2 hr. 47 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 22, 2006 (wide—2,000 theaters)
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer

A single man or woman can help change the world. Read about some who did with faith and God’s help…
Jesus Christ, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer

Featuring: Robert De Niro, Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, John Turturro, Billy Crudup, Tammy Blanchard, Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton, Keir Dullea, Eddie Redmayne, Lee Pace, Gabriel Macht, Joe Pesci
Director: Robert De Niro
Producer: Francis Ford Coppola
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“The true story of the birth of the CIA through the eyes of a man that never existed.”

Not an exit.

Edward Wilson’s (Matt Damon) office door shown near the beginning of the film gives foreshadowing of a man choosing to sacrifice his friends, family, and almost everything else for the sake of a job. However, just as he chooses to open the door to his office in the film, Damon’s character chooses his own path.

This non-linear film shows us the sacrifices made by one of the CIA’s formative members. From a young adult accepted into the prestigious but highly secretive Skull and Bones society to being an intelligence veteran seasoned by overseas operations, Wilson is in a constant struggle with a personal life that he feels was thrust upon him. An unforeseen pregnancy causes Wilson to take a wife in Clover (Angelina Jolie). However, his true love lies elsewhere and their relationship is torn apart by Wilson’s eagerness to be away as well as his infidelity at times although Clover is not perfect either.

Stoic and reserved, you can almost hear Wilson’s mind at work. Words and actions are chosen carefully although the lack of spirituality leaves Wilson to rely on the one thing he has an unwavering faith in: his country. However, we see the price paid when our hearts belong to anything but Christ.

The acting is very good. Appearances by John Turturro, Robert De Niro (also the film’s director), Joe Pesci, Billy Crudup, and Timothy Hutton are worth keeping your eyes open for although the film almost reaches the three-hour mark.

Although I enjoyed the film’s character study, it left me wanting. I think it was just the fact that I was hoping for a little more at the end.

As far as content, Wilson is urinated on as he wrestles naked in mud I believe. He is also naked in a coffin during another Skull and Bones ritual. Scenes of infidelity and lovemaking are scattered throughout. There is a vicious scene where a lady is thrown out of an airplane near the end. There are other instances of violence although the one I mentioned is probably the worst. There is a little language including the f-word and some racial slurs.

Spirituality is absent for the most part, although there is a scene in a church. It just serves to introduce Damon’s character to his nemesis though. I think a good point of discussion would be to look at Wilson’s decisions and the consequences and speculate how a Christian worldview would have factored into the decision-making process.

Fair warning: although it is not a typical spy movie with a lot of action or the constant womanizing of a Bond film, the spartan technique of the director makes what he does show seem all the more intense.

Overall, it is a movie I have enjoyed… once.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—This is the ultimate guy movie, but not in the sense of blowing up things and scantily clad women. Rather it shows how a man faces evil but hurts his efforts with impulsive and poor decisions. He remains the lone warrior but at the cost of no emotional support. The pacing of the movie is the same throughout, suggesting the drudgery of a man’s life, even in the battle against the evil empire. Good editing could have shortened the movie by an hour, but that would have shortened the drudgery of the man’s life.

The sex scenes are highly suggestive and totally unnecessary, as is a urinating scene. But the sex scenes are not nearly as bad as those in PG-13 rated “Casino Royale.” Do not expect glamour, nor should you look too closely at the plot details. In the end, it is the story of one man’s efforts, in this case to defend this country, and the toll it takes absent of any of God’s help.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Bill Walters, age 58
Positive—As with many Hollywood productions, there was too much sexual and violent content that could have been avoided. This would have made for a better movie with less objectionable content that could be viewed by a broader audience. That said, I really enjoyed most of this film. Many reviewers said it was too long and difficult to follow. However, I found the plot to be very interesting and thought provoking. I enjoyed the cold war historical references, and the character development was very good. The movie shows how we are compromised by our sin, and that foolish, indulgent short-term actions (as well as preconceived sin and bad choices) have serious long-term implications.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4½
—Greg Calfin, age 44
Positive—This is an edge-of-your-seat kind of thriller, and I hesitated to even take a restroom break towards the end. You have to follow every detail in sequence or you will lose the train of thought in the plot. The actors are outstanding, especially the very stoic Matt Damon, who carries the film. The story basically follows the career of an early CIA official who is nameless. Throughout the plotline, he has to put everything in his life as secondary to his call to serve his country. He is both a noble character and a tragic character; he loses his true love and has a very poor relationship with his real wife, played by Angelina Jolie, who does a good job. Pay close attention to the movie or you will lose the sense of it, especially towards the end where there is so much counter-espionage between the Soviets and the US. In the end we see just how far this operative has to go in sacrificing his life for his country. The bad morality is minor in the film, but the violence can be brutal at times.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Tom King, age 56
Neutral—I watched this film because a family friend who retired from the CIA said that this was about as close as Hollywood got to portraying that institution accurately. By the end, I felt that if this is really how the CIA operates, God help us all. As a big fan of “The Godfather,” I was interested in the movie, firstly, because Robert DeNiro was in it and directed, and also because loyalty is a main theme, although, disappointingly, the main character in “The Good Shepherd” is a horrible family man, but has deep loyalty to the USA (unlike in “The Godfather,” where family is EVERYTHING).

The other reviewers are right: Matt Damon is pretty much the paragon of stoicism, but I thought that it lent his character mystery and, with all quiet people, it made you pay closer attention to see the true personality hiding within. Unfortunately, his choices in life made me think there wasn’t a whole lot I found likeable under that quiet and calculating exterior. There were many scenes I had to fast-forward. The language is offensive, and there is one part that I am surprised no one else mentioned: an extremely horrific torture scene.

Although the acting was great and the cinematography stellar, I would have to say that all in all this film was lacking. Probably, I say that because it had such a dark side to it, and by the end you were depressed, because God was nowhere in sight. No Christian values were displayed; on the contrary, there was nothing but deceit and fornication. See it only if you are looking for a spy thriller, but keep in mind there is no moral redemption.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Elizabeth F., age 25 (USA)
Neutral—First, be warned… “The Good Shepherd” is NEARLY 3 HOURS LONG. And second, there is nothing at all uplifting to redeem the series of events that consist solely of war, sin and heartbreak. The movie covers the years of 1925 to 1961, and gives a synopsis of his life as a spy that keeps you mildly interested (although, when you hit the hour and a half mark, you start to think that it HAS to be over soon).

What the movie really is, sadly, is a perfect example of just how far the consequences of our sin can reach. A brief, meaningless one night stand bring about a lifetime of loneliness and continual heartbreak for Edward Wilson, his “true” love, his wife, his son, and beyond. The final blow is rather hard to take, and I couldn’t help but think that an ounce of moral conscience and restraint twenty some years before could have prevented it all.

If you’re a history buff, you will enjoy the “behind the scenes” tour through the middle of the last century. Those looking for a suspenseful, adrenaline-pumping action movie will instead find themselves shifting in their seats, eager for the credits to roll. What you CAN expect is a paced, steady stream of events that show the more “realistic” dreary facts of the intelligence world. They do, however, make the people just endearing enough so that you feel for them as they must live through the gut-wrenching consequences of sin they chose. A sad, true to life story.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Mariah, age 25
Negative—BORING! And very hard to follow. I rated this offensive because of the sex scenes and the use of the N-word. These were totally unnecessary. The F-word was also used a few times. Don’t waste your time or money.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—Maria Gottuso, age 38
Negative—My first thought is that when writing the review they ask “have you seen the film in it’s entirety?,” I wanted to select “unfortunately,” but that was not an option. This film has quality in it’s making, but is not worth your money or time, I wouldn’t even recommend renting it. I am not a fan of Angelina Jolie, so having her age through the movie and not look so great in the end was the only worth while thing I got out of it. It was so VERY long! It dragged.

There was the same sex scene shown over and over, and other scenes too, that my poor husband spent a good bit of the movie with his face turned away so as not to see it. We walked away disappointed and confused, it was hard to piece together and a complete waste of (what seemed like way more than) 3 hours. I always check this site before going to the movies and didn’t wait to see what the review was for this one, I wish I had.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4½
—Michelle, age 34
Negative—This movie was a waste of time. I don’t understand how one of the fellow reviewers called this the “ultimate” guy movie, then rated it a mere 3½. Another reviewer rated it “negative” and “boring,” then gave it a 4.0. Yet another rated it as “negative” and 'wouldn’t even rent it' yet rated it 4½! Come on people! I very frequently check movies on this Christian Spotlight Web site, so I would hope others are a bit more accurate in their Quality ratings.

I found this movie extremely boring and hard to follow. I hardly ever not watch movies all the way through, but unfortunately watched this one. Yes, the photography might have been pretty good, but THIS MOVIE DID NOT WORK (for me). A 2 hour movie of a pretty sunset might be good photography, but is it a “good” movie? Therefore, I give a quality rating of 1½.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 1½
—Chris Cardone, age 47
Negative—This movie is not only difficult to get into and understand, but it is so boring. At the end of it, I was actually surprised that my husband and I sat through the whole thing. What got to us the most was that there were no likeable characters. The main character, played by Matt Damon, certainly was not likeable (he’s pictured him as rowdy and wild in the very beginning, but then, inexplicably, he morphs into someone with no personality at all). It had a star-studded cast, but we saw no reason why this got so much acclaim. We found it a complete waste of time.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Doralyn Rush, age 29
Comments from young people
Positive—This is a very good film, But I do not recommend it for poeple under the age of 14. The only really bad thing was the main person could not keep himself to himself, if you catch my drift. Other then that I would say that it was very well done in showing what these poeple went through.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Bart Veigle, age 15