Go see The Good Shepherd if you need some time to snooze. Luckily, theaters are dark.

Robert DeNiro is the director of this three-hour long movie based loosely on the life of James Angleton, the paranoid patriot who was one of the founders of the CIA.

Matt Damon plays the Angleton character - named Edward Wilson in the movie - and I swear to God it’s the most boring portrayal you’ll ever want to see. And I think Matt Damon is great.

My sister lives four miles from CIA headquarters in Virginia, drives by its entrance (you can barely see it from the road) every day and is totally fascinated by the spy agency. So she was excited to go see The Good Shepherd on Christmas night.

As a history buff who has read more than my share of CIA literature, I was looking forward to it, too. Even passed up going to the Cowboys game for the movie (no major loss there, as it turned out).

The problem is The Good Shepherd tells the story of the CIA by looking at its impact on Wilson’s sad family life. Wilson (Angleton) is so devoted to the United States and the CIA he neglects his suffering wife (Angelina Jolie) and son (Eddie Redmayne). The result is a movie as much about a dysfunctional family as the CIA.

It’s still interesting to see DeNiro’s take on such historical events as the rise of Fidel Castro and John Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the unmasking of British double-agent Kim Philby. In many ways, The Good Shepherd is like The Godfather Part 2, which is my all-time favorite movie. But Francis Ford Coppola was judicious enough to balance history with the personal lives of the players. DeNiro, while certainly competent, comes down too heavily on the personal side, even if Angelina Jolie is stunning.

You could see the impact on the moviegoers as we left the theater; the gaiety of Christmas replaced by a sense of doom and gloom after watching a family come apart for three hours.

Or maybe it was just late, and we were tired.



Jim Goodson is editor of the Jacksonville Daily Progress.

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