It took Norman Mailer seven years and 1,282 pages to write 1991's Harlot's Ghost: A Novel of the CIA, so director Robert De Niro and screenwriter Eric Roth can be forgiven for taking two hours and 40 minutes to tell The Good Shepherd (aka A Movie of the CIA) -- but then why does it feel so empty? As long as it is, Shepherd speeds through its leading man's life, cramming in 30 years without elaborating on any of them. The fictional story here is about Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), a CIA agent tied to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and suspected of being a mole. Shepherd is supposed to be about the breaking of the heart and the gutting of the soul -- the hollow nothing left when you're constantly told to trust no one. Yet to care about how secrets eradicate our humanity, you must first have humans, and Edward is barely that as he finds himself involved in a whole mess of intrigue. Certainly, the plight of the average man caught up in extraordinary circumstances can work. But Shepherd wants so badly to impart the entire history of the OSS and CIA that it trades extraordinary for meticulous and mundane. What a feat.
Director: Robert De Niro
Writer: Eric Roth and Philip Kaufman
Producer: Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal
Cast: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, John Turturro, William Hurt, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, Gabriel Macht and Tammy Blanchard