Starring Matt Damon under the direction of Robert DeNiro, “The Good Shepherd” chronicles the career of the highly secretive and intensely loyal spy, Edward Wilson. The film’s plot centers around the early history of the CIA and the rise of the Soviet Union post-World War II.

Damon’s portrayal of the humorless and inscrutable Wilson helps give the film its dark and threatening ambiance. Damon’s performance is bolstered by supporting performances from a list of notable actors and actresses including Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, John Tuturro and Angelina Jolie.

This is not a quintessential spy movie full of stylized violence or globe-trotting romance, but rather a movie whose plot is slow moving and convoluted and whose star eschews many of the expected characteristics of CIA operatives on screen (think the opposite of Damon’s character in “The Bourne Identity”).

Edward Wilson is a shadowy and malevolent figure and the bulk of the film’s action is the lengthy history of his rise to the heights of the CIA. The story is framed as a flashback from the series of days after the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Wilson is cagey from the get-go. At the tender age of six, he covers up his father’s suicide. By the time he makes it to Yale, he is easily able to become ‘Master of Secrets’ in the arcane and politically powerful Skull and Bones Society. From there, his meteoric rise within the intelligence community is fueled by his intense loyalty to the United States government and a callous humorlessness that is remarkably sinister.

It is that loyalty to country that provides the key conflict for Wilson- what is he willing to sacrifice in the name of the United States?

This movie has clear contemporary political commentary, and the acting is top shelf. But at three hours long, it is an exhausting watch. By the end of this movie you may find yourself regretting the chilling realism of “The Good Shepherd”- the dashing spy is certainly nowhere to be found here.

Kieburtz is a member of the class of 2009.

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