Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) believes in all that America stands for and will do whatever he must to protect what his country stands for. As one of the founder members of the CIA in 1939, Wilson is also one of the most trusted members of this group of secrecy. When the idea that a mole may be working within the CIA is found, Wilson is told to find out which member is the mole. The path Wilson must take to discover this mole will lead him to question not only the CIA as a group, but also his personal life.
The biggest enjoyment out of this film is that it demands that you pay attention to every little detail present on the screen. As Wilson struggles to balance his personal life with his life of secrecy inside the C.I.A., we experience a story about a man who tries to uncover the ultimate secrecy inside a group of secrets. De Niro, having only directed The Bronx Tale before this, shows that his craft in the directing chair has improved (no one really needs to question his acting talents though). Most of the characters he presents (with the exception of his role, Baldwinï¿½s role and some of the more minor roles) felt in place, adding to the tenseness of the story as it unfolded before our eyes.
Speaking of the filmï¿½s acting, one quality Iï¿½ve come to expect out of actor Matt Damon as of late is that the man certainly knows how to choose his roles. Fresh off his spectacular powerhouse role in Martin Scorseseï¿½s The Departed, Damon delivers another fierce, taunt performance that demands we pay almost as much attention to the details as Wilson does himself. The rest of the supporting characters, however, seemed to be kind of a hit or miss. Director De Niroï¿½s own performance as General Bill Sullivan didnï¿½t seem to carry the type of energy he has in his more power driven roles like Raging Bull or Goodfellas. William Hurt as Phillip Allen and Angelina Jolie as Clover gave two of the better performances outside of Damonï¿½s own homerun. The biggest disappointment, acting wise, was Alec Baldwin as Sam Murach. Perhaps because Baldwin felt so perfect in The Departed, I came to expect something more out of his role. His character just felt kind of there I suppose.
The Good Shepherd, as a film, is intense, interesting and powerful. Presenting a story about a group of people that, at least for myself, easily captivate my interest, De Niro captures the world and its surrounding people during its birth with ease. Despite a few out of place characters, the story and the acting by Damon catapult this film from a mediocre film into a film that contains such an important story about a character that is so depressingly confused that we canï¿½t help but become absorbed by Wilson. In fact, I feel so strongly about Damon and his performance that I will say that The Good Shepherd would have been nothing without him. The Good Shepherd ends up being a taunt, incredible film that everyone with an ounce of patience needs to see.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, The Good Shepherd has that type of transfer that is just fine for the material at hand.
Color usage is was, I suppose, somewhat depressing (I guess thatï¿½s in theme with the subject at hand). The chosen color palette contained sharp blacks and grays. The other colors felt kind of subdued causing the transfer to seem rather flat at some points. Grain was kept in check while the filmï¿½s print, which benefits from being only 4 months old, was in pristine condition. This definitely isnï¿½t an A+ transfer, but rather is the type of transfer that compliments the film and its themes.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 available in either English or French, The Good Shepherd contains the type of soundtrack that gets the job done. While the job isnï¿½t exactly boasting in any manner, the job the audio does is effective enough.
Obviously this is a dialogue rich film, so luckily the dialogue comes through in a fine manner as it never becomes muddled or hard to understand (which is great considering the amount of paying attention one needs to do here). Surround usage is, as one might expect, minimal at best (this isnï¿½t no King Kong here folks). Dynamic Range is noticeable in a few sequences with a handful of discrete, subtle effects. This obviously isnï¿½t the type of demo audio experience, but this just shows us that Universal is capable of delivering solid audio regardless of the filmï¿½s atmosphere.
A gigantic disappointment here from Universal. Do I smell a double-dip down the road?
- Deleted Scenes: Here weï¿½re given 16 minutes of deleted scenes (seven scenes in total). While I thought the film was pretty good, these deleted scenes felt like they were just thrown on the disc as a freebie type supplement. De Niro doesnï¿½t even offer us any insight as to why they were deleted. As for the scenes themselves, most felt like extensions to portions of the film that felt too long already.
- HD DVD Exclusive
- U-Control: Well one big note to mention is that at least Universal is putting more and more interactivity on their discs. The biggest oddity here is that a majority of the U-Control featured interviews and comments by the cast and crew all done in a style that could have been separated into their own feature. And unfortunately like most U-Control/IME features, there is a fair share of dead air here. I do suppose we have to give kudos to Universal for trying to push the HD format though.
Universal delivers The Good Shepherd onto the HD DVD format with good picture and audio for a fantastic film. The huge disappointment here that brings this one down is the severe lack of any substantial features (what gives?). At least we have an exclusive U-Control feature though. Despite this slight downfall, Iï¿½m still going to recommend this one to anyone who enjoys Damon or enjoys a fine thriller.
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes