January 3rd, 2007

Proves a spy movie can be as dull as a documentary on aluminum foil

The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert De Niro, written by Eric Roth, and staring Matt Damon, and Angelina Jolie is one person’s hum-drum story as part of the beginning of organized espionage in the United States. Contrary to cinematic history, “The Good Shepherd” proves a spy movie can be as dull as a documentary on aluminum foil.

While he, Edward Wilson, is in college he falls in love with a deaf woman, played by Tammy Blanchard, who fills his heart. Edward Wilson, Matt Damon’s character, is recruited into the Office of Strategic Services or OCC (international espionage) out of the Skull and Bones Organization while in college.

His decision to join the world of the covert takes a heavy toll on his and his family’s personal life. In a moment of weakness though he sleeps with Clover Russell, Angelina Jolie’s character, and she gets pregnant. Wilson and Russell marry just before he is sent off into the world of the OSS. Wilson and Russell are parted for six years in which time their child is born and begins to grow up. His wife even changes her name and he doesn’t know.

Wilson’s adventures in intrigue begin by picking his assistant, Arch Cummings, played by Billy Crudup. The criteria for the assistant to a European OSS officer is as follows: 1. You must be a smart ass to your potential boss. 2. You must be able to answer the phone. The scene to find his assistant is lengthy and in the end pans out to be completely excessive. In the end his assistant could have been a gorilla painted blue for all it matters to the plot of the film.

Following the Cliché Movie Plot 101, we then meet arch nemesis, Stas Siyanko, nicknamed Ulysses. Siyanko, played by the striking Oleg Stefan, and Wilson have a respectful and surprisingly amorous relationship. Their relationship is the only part of the movie that doesn’t encourage you to study the back of your eyelids.

Wilson finally returns home to live a long and unsatisfied life with his wife and son until his wife leaves him.

The only “plot twist” is twisty as spaghetti. Who is the bad guy? Is he really a bad guy? What will Wilson do? Who cares? Not me.

The wildly passionate “moment of weakness” made me as hot as bowl of rocky road. In the world of movies today it is hard to think of two less beautiful or sexy actors as Jolie and Damon. Even so, their independent sexuality does nothing for their chemistry as a couple. Their one sex scene is awkward and cold. It left me wondering what they would look like if they were having sex with Ben Affleck.

It isn’t surprising that their sex is absent of all heat because Damon plays Wilson like a walking corpse. In the opening scene Damon walks stiffly into the frame. He must have skipped starching his clothes and chose instead to starch himself. I believe that De Niro was trying to make a point about the focused, simple demeanor of the people of the CIA and the OSS. Even so, we could have gone to a movie about how to paint a bird house if we wanted to be bored stiff.

Jolie is a beautiful and as good an actor as ever in this roll. Beauty and good acting can’t save a poorly written character. Jolie’s character is bazaar. Her life is a ping-pong game of emotional irrationalities. I expected Clover/Margaret/Who-ever to get naked, and run through the sprinkler in her front yard before renting a bazooka from the local fisherman and killing her husband with it.

Eric Roth and Robert De Nero should be congratulated for creating a new genre of spy movie, the Blah-spionage. It is a rare group of people who can de-sexify Angela Jolie, can un-hunkify Matt Damon, can bore-ify being a spy and create a tremendously idiotic plot twist. I don’t know if you have to go to school to become this drab or to gain the skills to unwind natural talent but if you don’t, Roth and Di Nero should open one.

If you decide to see “The Good Shepherd” bring someone with you. Every fifteen minutes or so take turns pinching each other or poking each other in the eye so you don’t fall asleep.

~LaRae Meadows