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The Good Shepherd (2006)



Average Rating: 6.1/10
Reviews Counted: 167
Fresh: 90 | Rotten: 77

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.


Average Rating: 6.1/10
Critic Reviews: 44
Fresh: 23 | Rotten: 21

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.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 181,655

My Rating

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)


Drama, Romance, Mystery & Suspense

Apr 3, 2007


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All Critics (169) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (90) | Rotten (77) | DVD (27)

The film's watchable enough if you're indulgent of its flaws but at 167 minutes it does tax the patience.

February 15, 2007 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

De Niro juggles the myriad big-picture parts with reserved professionalism; it's the central character, ironically, that's the movie's Achilles' heel.

February 3, 2007 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

No previous American film has ventured into this still largely unknown territory with such authority and emotional detachment. For this reason alone, The Good Shepherd is must-see viewing.

January 3, 2007 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

De Niro seems to be good with actors but less successful at stringing a movie together, and keeping it together, scene by scene.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The mesmerizing espionage thriller chronicles the inception and ascendancy of the CIA.

December 22, 2006 Full Review Source: USA Today
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's like watching a fish stare at you from inside the magnifying wall of an aquarium, and about as exciting.

December 22, 2006 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As a punishingly ambiguous and astonishingly thorough tragedy, "The Good Shepherd" shows that emotions as human as any errors can undermine intelligence and questions whether God and country alone can be enough for a man's soul.

September 24, 2010 Full Review Source:

Stylistically engaging, narratively murky, historically worthless.

April 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

You will probably come away from it impressed but unmoved.

February 28, 2008 Full Review Source:

A isappointing hybrid that's too bloated, diffuse and tedious to work as a regular length movie -- yet has not enough emotional range or narrative focus to be considered a great epic drama.

January 15, 2008 Full Review Source: Dark Horizons
Dark Horizons

Damn near drowns itself with its unwaveringly solemn sense of importance

October 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

Seems thoroughly conflicted about whether it actually buys what it's selling.

June 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

publici "Dobri pastir" ne govori ni%u0161ta %u0161to ona, na ovaj ili onaj na%u010Din, ve%u0107 nije znala

June 22, 2007 Full Review Source:

A pesar de su extensa duración, la película no parece tener un minuto de sobra. El relato es apasionante, y está servido por un actor-director que ha aprendido mucho de sus maestros.

April 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

In a mystery worthy of the CIA, The Good Shepherd ends up being both too long and too short.

March 24, 2007 Full Review Source: UGO

Not quite unlocking the secret history of the CIA.

March 21, 2007 Full Review Source: WBAI Web Radio | Comment (1)
WBAI Web Radio

The Good Shepherd tells a compelling, complex, personal and political story and tells it extremely well. It's an engrossing film.

March 20, 2007 Full Review Source:

Apropriadamente mergulhado em sombras e belíssimas imagens em contraluz, é o segundo trabalho de De Niro como diretor, que revela, aqui, um olhar inspirado para composições e, como já era de se esperar, um talento inegável para a condução do elenco.

March 16, 2007
Cinema em Cena

Better than any of the feature film versions of John le Carre's novels and nearly as good as the TV mini-series based on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People.

February 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

It's a film for fans of John Le Carre, rather than Ian Fleming.

February 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Independent on Sunday
Independent on Sunday

Never manages to create a gripping strand to hold our attention.

February 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Sunday Times (UK)

Not a film everyone will like. But those who do will appreciate De Niro's insistence on accurate detail.

February 23, 2007 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

165 minutes of my life I will never get back, damn it. This is one shepherd that's lost control of its flock.

February 23, 2007 Full Review Source: thelondonpaper

De Niro deserves credit for the broad, ambitious canvas he's worked on, but his movie is just as mechanical and humourless as his protagonist.

February 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Independent

On paper this had "belter" written all over it. Sadly, Damon's lifeless performance in the lead role failed to keep me gripped throughout the movie's bum-numbing 167 minutes.

February 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Sun Online
Sun Online

Touches are just enough to earn The Good Shepherd a third star. But De Niro might want to stick to acting in future.

February 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK] | Comments (2)
Daily Mirror [UK]

Audience Reviews for The Good Shepherd

For his second turn as a director, legendary actor Robert De Niro decided to make somehting that was apparently a big pet project and labor of love for him: a slow-burn spy drama (not thriller) about the early years of the CIA, as told through the life of a quiet, reserved, yet observant man named Edward Wilson.

While supposedly claiming to give the true story of its subject matter, the film takes the approach of using composites, fictionalized names, and apparently altered details here and there, and does so using a near three hour run time, and unfolding at a very (very) slow-burning pace. The film jumps back in forth in time between the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs fiasco and everything leadng up to it starting in 1939, but despite these time jumps, and the fact that the film is so heavy on plot, it's actually far easier to follow ( if you pay attention) than most espionage type films.

I loved that the film was focused on the Cold War, and the beginnings of the CIA, but I was somewhat let down by De Niro's approach. The film is light on frenetic action and violence, prefering to show a more classy and dignified origin story, and that's fine I guess, but the problem is that the film is really lethargic, depsite some violence here and there, there's not enough going on to keep the momentum up. I atually didn't find the film to be all that boring, but it is extremely long winded. And, though I'm okay with the "violence-lite" approach, I think the film could have had a few more scenes of action just so the film could have SOMETHING going on to keep the less patient viewers interested.

I usually bitch about films that take on history that don't put it into a broader context, and while this film is one of those, it's still very academic in how it feels, IE it's less of a popcorn entertainer and more of a history lesson. I'd be more fine with this if the film could have avoided being as dry as its main character. The period details are impeccable though, and the film does have some wonderful cinematography, I just wish it could have been better paced.

The film boasts an impressive supporting cast, with Matt Damon in the lead, Angelina Jolie as his lady, and, in supporting roles of varrying lengths, Billy Crudup, John Turturro, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, and others, including a welcome, though underwhelming cameo from Joe Pesci. Damon is good. The character is supposed to be dry, closed off, and humorless, and he pulls this off, but unfortunately, though not Damon's fault, the character might be too closed off, too emotionally distant, and thus, really hard to know or care about. Jolie had potential to be a real spark and gives this film some needed energy and drive, and she starts that way, but her character soon fades into the background, and Jolie's talents quickly go severely misused. Of the supporters who have substantial screen time, I give the most props to Hurt. He's always (as far as I know) a solid, standup player.

This film is perplexing. It's got an interesting story and subjext matter, but somewhat lackluster and tedious presentation. The cast is notable, but the performances are hit and miss and none of the characters are really as compelling as they should be. The film has great production values, but doesn't stand out the way it should. I am torn on this one. I didn't hate it, but I don't quite like it either. I actually am fascinated by it and the subject matter, and I have an odd kind of respect for it, even though I'm not fully on board.

I'll just be nice and give it the rare thumbs sideways, as well as a mild recommendation (for a one time viewing only...and even then just for those who can appreciate a reserved, slow burning film that's heavier on atmosphere and ideas than developed and penetrable characters.
July 2, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Many spy films depict a life of easy affluence and an amusement park of thrills, but this one is far, far different. Instead an existence of miserable ever gnawing fear and isolation, masked beneath a cheesy veneer of " everything's all right", slowly choke even desperation away, leaving a pallid complacency. While admittedly not a work for everyone I found myself riveted.
December 17, 2011

Super Reviewer

The Good Shepherd is a film that recounts the origins of the CIA. Robert De Niro directs a good spy thriller. The Goof Shepherd has a stylish period atmosphere and the cast that De Niro has assembled are an impressive bunch of talented actors. The film will certainly appeal to fans of espionage, but won't appeal to average film buff. I love espionage films so of course I enjoyed this film. The Good Shepherd has everything you'd expect from a top notch espionage film, intrigue, action suspense. Robert De Niro has assembled a cast of incredible talent here. A performance that surprised me was that of Angelina Jolie. Jolie who is normally mediocre in her roles, offers a more than descent performance here as Margaret Russell. The Good Shepherd is a film that won't appeal to everyone, but to those looking for a fine period piece dealing with espionage, then The Good Shepherd is the film that you should check out. The film recounts the birth of the CIA from the World War II era Agency the OSS to the Bay of Pigs invasion. Though a flawed espionage Thriller, The Good Shepherd manages to be engaging and interesting. Though slow and long, I thought the film is one of the best crafted Espionage thrillers in recent memory. There's really nothing to hate about The Good Shepherd, it may not be everyones cup of tea, but those interested in subjects of espionage will certainly be thrilled with this intricate film about the most covert intelligence agency the world has ever known.
April 24, 2011
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

    1. Bill Sullivan: I don't want your answer now, just think about it. But this isn't a bunch of fraternity boys sitting around playing with their pricks... This is for real. For America.
    – Submitted by Jorge S (5 months ago)
    1. Bill Sullivan: We'll eventually get involved in this war. Not because we want to, but because we have to, and we should. And the President has asked me to look into creating a Foreign Intelligence Service. And if that happens, I'll be looking for patriotic, honorable, bright young men from the right backgrounds to manage the various departments. In other words, no jews or negroes and very few Catholics, and that's only because I'm a Catholic.
    – Submitted by Jorge S (5 months ago)
    1. Valentin Mironov #2: Soviet power is a myth. A great show. There are no spare parts. Nothing is working, nothing, it's nothing but painted rust. But you, you need to keep the Russian myth alive to maintain your military industrial complex. Your system depends on Russia being perceived as a mortal threat. It's not a threat. It was never a threat. It will never be a threat. It's a rotted, bloated cow.
    – Submitted by Phil K (9 months ago)
    1. Philip Allen: Intelligence is their mother's milk and they don't like sharing the royal tit with people that don't have titles.
    – Submitted by Star D (21 months ago)
    1. Edward Wilson: I have let a stranger into our house.
    – Submitted by Jim A (2 years ago)
    1. Clover/Margaret Russell: I'm supposed to be looking for the perfect husband. Are you the perfect husband Mr. Wilson?
    2. Edward Wilson: Perfect in every way.
    – Submitted by Hanna K (3 years ago)
View all quotes (8)

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