Edward Wilson believed in America, and he would sacrifice everything he loved to protect it.
A complicated movie about the Central Intelligence Agency and its agents, The Good Shepherd isn't your typical spy movie. Though it stars Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity films) and Angelina Jolie (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Lara Croft franchise)--actors with considerable experience in the action-espionage genre--The Good Shepherd requires that they play more subdued and (much less interesting) characters here. The movie focuses on the career or Edward Wilson (Damon), a privileged Yale graduate who goes on to help found the CIA. He is a quiet, serious, and guarded man, even in the most intimate moments with his civilian wife (Jolie, in a role that wastes her talent). Set against a backdrop of real-life events such as the Bay of Pigs, The Good Shepherd is meticulous in creating a realistic timeframe. The film gets a jolt of excitement when Robert DeNiro (in his first directing role since 1993's A Bronx Tale) peppers the screen with appearances by Joe Pesci, Alec Baldwin, and William Hurt. But those moments are too infrequent. At 157 minutes long, the film is crammed with many factual details, but the characters are shortchanged when it comes to development. Viewers have to wonder why anyone, much less someone like Wilson who has everything going for him, would devote his life to a thankless job that brings so little happiness to himself and his family. The Good Shepherd is an ambitious but flawed film. The actors do a formidable job with a well-intentioned but meandering script. However, we meet so many characters and learn so little about each that it's difficult to drum up much empathy for any of them. --Jae-Ha Kim