Laconic and self-contained, Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) heads C.I.A. covert operations during the Bay of Pigs. The agency suspects that Fidel Castro was tipped, so Wilson looks for the leak. As he investigates, he recalls, in a series of flashbacks, his father's death, student days at Yale (poetry; Skull and Bones), recruitment into the fledgling O.S.S., truncated affairs, a shotgun marriage, cutting his teeth on spy craft in London, distance from his son, the emergence of the Cold War, and relationships with agency, British, and Soviet counterparts. We watch his idealism give way to something else: disclosing the nature of that something else is at the heart of this movie's narration as he closes in on the leak.Written by
"The Good Shepherd" is my second best film of 2006. A lot of people who have seen it will think differently and I can understand that. This film is not for everyone, but the viewers who have a love for US History, The Cold War, CIA, Espionage, or Spy films should be pleased with "The Good Shepherd." It is very subtle, but extremely effective.
"The Good Shepherd" is told from a series of flashbacks during a two week mission to find the significance of a document that was sent to the house of Edward Wilson by an anonymous person(s). We see the rise of Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) from his ranks as a Skull and Bones member to the head of the Counter Intelligence section of CIA.
Robert De Niro directs this epic, near-masterpiece, of the creation of CIA through one mans eyes, Edward Wilson. Matt Damon gives a great performance and one of his best along with "The Departed" and "Good Will Hunting." Damon plays Edward Wilson who starts off as a Yale graduate and Skull and Bones member. He is recruited by an FBI Agent (Alec Baldwin) to spy on his poetry professor Dr. Fredrick's (Michael Gambon), who is believed to have set up a Nazi organization and is enlisting students and faculty members. Edward agrees to spy on his professor after some talking into and gets the names of the people Dr. Fredrick's has enlisted, which leads to his firing on the basis of his political beliefs.
On Deer Island (Skull and Bones retreat) he meets Margaret "Clover" Russell (Angelina Jolie) who seeks out Edward immediately and finds something about him quite intriguing. Matt Damon plays "the man made out of stone" giving little to no emotional reaction to anything and just about everything. Edward Wilson is a man of few words, but he chooses wisely what few words he speaks.
Edward Wilson falls in love with Laura, played wonderfully by Tammy Blanchard- a deaf women- but their relationship comes to an abrupt end as Edward finds that Margaret has become pregnant with his child and Edward is to do what is expected of him. This means he will have to leave Laura and marry Clover. A week after their marriage Edward has to go overseas during WWII, mostly working out of Germany, but is sent to London and joins the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), by General Bill Sullivan (Robert De Niro).
After the war Germany is crumbling and Edward Wilson is climbing the ranks garnering more and more trust. The Soviets are now looking to acquire as many scientists as possible. In Berlin, Edward Wilson meets his adversary, codename "Ulysses," and the back and forth battle between Wilson (His codename is "Mother") and Ulysses is something to really behold and some of the best scenes in the film take part during their back and forth battle of disinformation and counter intelligence and deception and infiltration of spies sent into one another's operations and then each adversary takes out these spies, then sends the "message" that these spies were found and disposed of. Was that confusing? Neither seems to gain much of any ground on each other until the end of the film where Ulysses sends a spy into Wilson's Agency and get's valuable information from someone very close to Edward Wilson. This information ruins the "Bay of Pigs" invasion which turns out to be a costly loss and damaging defeat. Wilson has to make a tough decision between his family and his country.
Edward Wilson was a man of selflessness who put his entire life into his country and did what he could do with his son. He makes sacrifices for his country and for his son. He sacrifices his time and relationship with his family for his country. He sacrifices his true love with Laura and marries Margaret for his son. If you were going to sum up Edward Wilson it probably would be best to use the term "selfless." Everything he does is for his country and the future of it. We never see him do much of anything for his own personal joy. This kind of behavior leads to a marriage that crumbles and falls apart. He plays the protector and is forced to do things such as have people killed and interrogated for the greater good. All over an idea- Communism.
I loved it. It may take a few viewings to fully understand the complexities of this film, but it is well worth it and an intense film with some great action and conversation throughout the film.
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