The Good Shepherd


The Good Shepherd

Critics Consensus

Though ambitious and confidently directed by Robert De Niro, The Good Shepherd is ultimately a tedious drama that holds few surprises and succumbs to self-seriousness.



Total Count: 169


Audience Score

User Ratings: 182,215
User image

Watch it now

The Good Shepherd Photos

Movie Info

Edward Wilson understands the value of secrecy--discretion and commitment to honor have been embedded in him since childhood. As an eager, optimistic student at Yale, he is recruited to join the secret society Skull and Bones, a brotherhood and breeding ground for future world leaders. Wilson's acute mind, spotless reputation and sincere belief in American values render him a prime candidate for a career in intelligence, and he is soon recruited to work for the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) during WWII. As one of the covert founders of the CIA, working in the heart of an organization where duplicity is required and nothing is taken at face value, Edward's idealism is steadily eroded by a growing suspicious nature, reflective of a world settling into the long paranoia of the Cold War. As his methods are adopted as standard operating procedure, Wilson develops into one of the Agency's veteran operatives, all the while combating his KGB counterpart. However, his steely dedication to his country comes at an ever-increasing price. Not even his wife Clover or his beloved son can divert Wilson from a path that will force him to sacrifice everything in pursuit of this job.


Matt Damon
as Edward Wilson
Angelina Jolie
as Clover/Margaret Russell
Alec Baldwin
as Sam Murach
Billy Crudup
as Arch Cummings
Robert De Niro
as Bill Sullivan
Keir Dullea
as Sen. John Russell, Sr.
Michael Gambon
as Dr. Fredericks
Martina Gedeck
as Hanna Schiller
William Hurt
as Philip Allen
Timothy Hutton
as Thomas Wilson
Mark Ivanir
as Valentin Mironov No. 2
Gabriel Macht
as John Russell, Jr.
Lee Pace
as Richard Hayes
Joe Pesci
as Joseph Palmi
Eddie Redmayne
as Edward Wilson, Jr.
John Sessions
as Valentin Mironov No. 1/Yuri Modin
Oleg Stefan
as Ulysses/Stas Siyanko
John Turturro
as Ray Brocco
Laila Robins
as Toddy Allen
Christopher Evan Welch
as Photography Technical Officer
Ann Hampton Callaway
as 1961 Deer Island Singer
View All

News & Interviews for The Good Shepherd

Critic Reviews for The Good Shepherd

All Critics (169) | Top Critics (49) | Fresh (92) | Rotten (77)

Audience Reviews for The Good Shepherd

  • Mar 29, 2013
    I kind of wish that the audience isn't reminded every 15 minutes of everything Damon's character looses by becoming a spy (we get it, he's dead inside). However, unlike everyone else I do like the film's extensive running time and the emptiness at its core that never allows for a false moment of hope.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 01, 2012
    From director Robert De Niro comes the espionage thriller The Good Shepherd. The film follows Edward Wilson as he learns counter intelligence in World War II and becomes a founder of the CIA. The all-star cast includes Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, John Turturro, and Robert De Niro, who all give good performances. However, there are storytelling issues and several key characters are underdeveloped. But the plot is fairly interesting, and De Niro does a good job at maintaining the suspense and mystery. Overall, The Good Shepherd is a smart and well-crafted film that's a bit too ambitious.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 30, 2011
    It's an extremely promising film directed by Robert De Niro, written by Eric Roth - the guy who wrote for "Forrest Gump", "The Insider", "Ali", "Munich" and "Benjamin Button" - and featuring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, and so on and so forth, so of course this film was going to be awesome. No, people, this film is actually pretty good, but it's not quite what you may hope it to be, and it's certainly not quite what the guy who wrote the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes was hoping it would be, as he will tell you with all of his talk about this film being "overlong" and "tedious". Come on, dude, the film's rating is a little bit better than halfway, and I would say that it still deserves a bit more, though that might simply be because Francis Ford Coppola's name is attached to this project, whose compellingness isn't necessarily augmented by the presence of its producer because I wouldn't want to offend a legend like Coppola, but because entertainment value was sustained for me due to my consistently chuckling at the thought of "The God Shepherd". Young Vito Corleon's actually calling the shots around here didn't help one bit, nor did Matt Damon's presence, which also made me think of "Good Shepherd Hunting", but make no mistake, we're not dealing with "The Godfather" here, yet neither are we dealing with "All the King's Men"... which I still liked just fine. 2006 did appear to be the year for disappointing political dramas, but hey, I'm just glad to see that Joe Pesci is still alive, even though he doesn't show up until around the final act of this, like, eight-hour movie. No, people, this film doesn't feel that overlong, but it does outstay its welcome a bit, so I guess it's a good thing that this film is still pretty good, in spite of its problems. Still, the fact of the matter is that this film has problems, and plenty of them, including ones that, believe it or not, have anything to do with the final product's being too long. At about two hours and three quarters, this film is a long one, and often a bit too much so, as that jerk who wrote the consensus to this film on Rotten Tomatoes will tell you, but what they don't talk about all that much is the fact that the final product is hurried about as often as it is bloated, being not too terribly slam-bang in its progression, but still slapdashed to the point of rather awkwardly thinning out the exposition that needs some serious exploration in a character piece this layered and sprawling. As you can imagine, these hurried spots leave the momentum of your investment to go slowed down a bit, much like lapses in full dramatic genuineness, for although this story seems generally assured as a drama on paper, at least on the whole, Robert De Niro's directorial execution overemphasizes the not-so subtle spots in Eric Roth's worthwhile dramatic touches - sometimes in a cheesy fashion that go so far as to craft pure and simple histrionics - through a bit of atmospheric overbearingness, something that does more than just mess around with subtlety value. The film isn't quite as dull as they say, but that's largely because De Niro tries a bit too hard to keep intrigue up, placing something of an overbearing emphasis on minimalist score work and atmospheric chill to the point of igniting some degree of tension that gets to be somewhat exhausting after a while of keeping consistent, and doesn't always gel with certain aspects in the story structuring it looms over. Lighter moments on paper are weighed down in execution by atmosphere's trying so desperately to be juicy that it just ends up awkwardly distancing you a bit, which isn't to say that you're not likely to be thrown off by points in atmospheric kick that are anything but juicy. When De Niro finally calms his ambitious self down, he either, well, delivers as firmly as he should throughout the film, or lets atmosphere dry up into a bit of blandness, which very rarely descends into all-out dullness, much less tediousness (Seriously, consensus... writer dude, cool it), but throws you off, though not to where your attention is drawn away from the fact that, at the end of the day, this film, while worthy of a hefty length, is a bit too long. When material isn't thinned out more than it should be, it gets to be a bit excessive, and with such pacing unevenness going backed by awkward spots in unevenness, aimlessness falls into play before too long, being challenged enough by undeniable strengths to keep the final product from slipping into underwhelmingness, but nonetheless present, so undeniably so that a film that really could have been genuinely outstanding ends up falling short. Still, the final product doesn't fall so short that it doesn't still keep up some degree of reward value, being flawed as all-out, but just as rich with strengths, even in the often misused music departments. Running almost three hours, most of which feature music that is often a bit too pronounced for the film's own good, this project features, not one, but two score composers, Bruce Fowler and Marcelo Zarvos, whose efforts are rarely truly glowing, and are often overplayed by Robert De Niro's direction as a supplement to the atmospheric overbearingness that looms over this effort much too often, but nevertheless strong, boasting a rather modern light classical-esque ambient minimalism that is consistently lovely, and effectively complimentary to tone when used at the proper moment. More impressive than the musical artistry is, of course, the visual artistry, powered by cinematography by none other than the great Robert Richardson, who does what he does best, playing with coloring and lighting in an expert fashion that crisply emphasizes the environment, often in a gorgeously lush fashion, often in a ruggedly gritty fashion, and consistently in a handsome fashion, while keeping framing comfortably tight, yet expansive enough for you to get a feel for the broadness of this epic. Complimented by the commendable artistic touches in question, and further livened up by such striking technical touches as generally clever editing by Tariq Anwar, this film accels stylistically if it accels in no other department, and that does a fair bit in reinforcing engagement value, but what truly keeps you sticking with the film is what is, in fact, done right when it comes to the handling of substance, and even of the conceptual foundation upon which substance is built. A dramatisation of the foundation of the CIA that centers upon layered characters, chilling mystery and even a fair bit of epic sweep, this film's story concept borders on truly great, and its being rather mishandled in execution is considerably disappointing, but not to where it's easy to ignore the strengths in this promising story concept's execution, of which, there is quite a bit, at least when it comes to Eric Roth's script, which stands to be more focused and tight in pacing and structure, and maybe even in subtlety, but is nevertheless quite clever, structuring the mystery thriller aspects and portrayals of the workings of the CIA with believable, tight and altogether thoroughly intriguing intricacy and complexity, and characterizing the more relatively dramatic and human aspects with a layered depth that De Niro, as director, rarely does total justice, but still keeps consistently adequately charged, at least through endearing ambition, whose moments of truly being followed through with result in glimpses of what this film could have been. By the time we come to a chillingly tense torture scene, the film begins a slow, but sure rise in compellingness, until, by the unexpectedly dramatically resonant final act, the film is almost, if not decidedly as excellent as it always should have been, and while such a segment of relative height comes in much too late for the film to reward as genuinely excellent, it makes for a satisfying capper to a consistent degree of undeniable compellingness, anchored by strong writing, generally descent storytelling and, of course, strong acting from this star-heavy cast, from which certain people stand out, including a surprisingly strong Angelina Jolie, whose emotionally layered portrayal of an initially seductive young lover who grows into a frustratingly uncertain, unloved wife to a man in a mysterious and dangerous position breathes quite a bit of life into the genuine humanity within this story's dramatic aspects. As for leading man Matt Damon, he has rarely, if ever been given the material he needs to really show off his exceptional acting skill since the '90s, and still isn't asked to stretch as much as you might hope he would in this, but is still given the chance to give you a taste of his still having it, being charismatic, layered, occasionally emotional and consistently convincing as a strong intellectual who starts off unceratain of his future, and eventually grows into a wise and commanding force, but one who will still have to face emotional challenges that will put his humanity and will power to near-unbearable tests. The film focuses on many spirits, but Damon stands at the core of this intricate character study, and he carries it with an underwritten, but worthy performance, one of many aspects that earn your investment in this rewarding epic, whose potential may not be as fulfilled as it probably should have been, but is done just enough justice to make for a final product to rewards just fine at the end of the day. Bottom line, hurried spots thin out exposition and slow down momentum, though not as much the occasional histrionic moment, made all that more glaring by atmospheric overbearingness that does a number on momentum throughout the final product, which still isn't without its share of dry spells that reflect the final product's being overlong, aimless and altogether not quite what it could have been, but don't do enough to push the film over into underwhelmingness, as there is enough artistic value to Bruce Fowler's and Marcelo Zarvos' score and Robert Richardson's score, and enough bite to a strong story concept - done a reasonable amount of justice by Eric Roth's generally strong script, high points in Robert De Niro's direction, and strong acting, particularly by a show stealing Angelina Jolie and show carrying Matt Damon - for "The Good Shepherd" to stand as a flawed, but ultimately reasonably engaging, resonant and rewarding fictionalized study on the origin of the CIA. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 02, 2011
    I really enjoyed this movie. The movie was a mix of the orgins and the CIA and the consequences of life this man had to make to protect his country. The plot was genius, even if it did have some fake stuff from real life. There were intense moments, characters, and secrets. True it was too confusing and not a reall spy movie, and really long. But its a small price to pay to watch this classic.
    Bradley W Super Reviewer

The Good Shepherd Quotes

News & Features