It’s been a long time since I created the #movies tag on this blog. Too long, in fact. I intended it to link my posts about the movies I watch. Specially those I go back to again and again. Those movies, like some books, that have the potential to insulate me from the outside world and relax. They’re like your favorite blanket or an old pair of jeans. You know exactly what to expect from them. There are no surprises that you need to be aware of, no ghosts in the doorway that you need to clear from your mind as you step into it. You can just put your feet up and let it all come to you. You don’t need to be attentive. After all, you have seen it before and will see it again. If you want, you can try and look at the finer details because they make the experience just the more rewarding. Though there is no compulsion.
One such movie is the 2006 spy drama, The Good Shepherd. The movie has a star cast that is guaranteed to get it a second look. Though if you just watch it for the big names, you are guaranteed to be disappointed. Robert DeNiro as the director brings a host of actors to the table who are as precise in their acting as he is in his direction.
It is loosely based on real events and looks into the birth of the CIA through the deeply personal story of one of it’s founding fathers. The role Damon plays is based on the man who goes on to create the Counterintelligence wing of the agency. And he is good, very good in fact, as the spook who almost doesn’t have any emotions. Except for his love for his son. Come to think of it, this is more of a family drama than a spy thriller. The wars, the espionage, the spying are merely props around the actual story that is the story of one man and his family.
The movie is long by conventional Hollywood standards. At 2 hours 45 minutes, it almost encroaches into Bollywood territory. And it is slow too. A spy thriller without fast cars and gun fights is something that you don’t see made too often. It is more of a John le Carre novel than an Ian Fleming creation. In fact, some of the interactions between Damon’s character and his Russian counterpart are reminiscent of le Carre’s spymaster George Smiley and his bete noir, Karla.
Each scene is crafted with a delicateness that makes it necessary for the viewer to watch the movie again if he intends to make out the brilliance in it. On first watch, the movie has the potential to overwhelm you a bit. Due to which repeat viewings are a must.
The camera angles, the lighting, the dialogues and the performances are all top class. But special mention has to be made of the editing. Going back and forth in time, it manages to hold your attention beautifully.
Do watch this gem of a movie if you haven’t. A personal recommendation.