Miles on Movies

The Good Shepherd

reviewed by R. Miles Mendenhall

Matt Damon plays the quintessential buttoned down “man in the grey flannel suit”. Angelino Jolie’s (is that injected collagen in those lips? They seem too luscious to be real!) character is the wife who endures the consequences of doing what is expected of women in an era of limited choices and restricted roles. The film goes into the Yale origins of the OSS and CIA, particularly the ultra-secret Skull and Bones private club.

Anyone who knows the history of the CIA, especially the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo will be able to read between the lines.

Damon’s character is a cutout (Sic.) for James Jesus Angleton the master counter-spy whose paranoia was legendary. Some critics have panned the film for its slow pace and lack of graphic depictions of the black bag, dirty tricks activities of the Covert Operations Department. But like Le Carre, we know that spying is as much, or more about painstaking, boring record keeping and elaborate levels of ambiguity, as it is about poison pen syringes and lone hit men in the night. For that check out Damon in the Bourne series.

This film is about the personal consequences of a lifetime, even generations of lifetimes, in the dubious service of this “Great Nation”.

When Damon’s character tells a Mafiosi that America belongs to the WASP’s and “The rest of you are only visiting” it is more political commentary than most spy movies ever get to. It worked for me.

Don’t look for action, although there is some, enjoy the convoluted mind games in this tragedy.

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