15 December 2008

'THE GOOD SHEPHERD' (Dir. Robert De Niro, 2007, US) - Power Corrupts

Any film that features a screenplay by Eric Roth is more than likely to feature an expertly crafted narrative structure and a succinct ear for dialogue that is usually a pleasure for A list actors to perform. Eric Roth is one of the finest scriptwriters Hollywood has produced and though he may not be as prolific as some of his contemporaries, his intelligently written and densely researched screenplays always seem to have the edge in terms of both authenticity and political relevance. Directed by Robert De Niro, 'The Good Shepherd' is a multi layered political drama and thriller that documents the origins and creation of the CIA as an international organisation involved in counter intelligence and the propagation of capitalist ideology. Though this a very stagy film and perhaps reveals De Niro's inexperience as a film maker, it is still a very finely constructed mainstream Hollywood film that explores a difficult subject matter in a critical way. Matt Damon is perfectly cast in the main lead as Edward Wilson, a senior CIA officer who is portrayed as both an absent father and unemotional husband. Supported by a stalwart of reputed character actors like Michael Gambon and Alec Baldwin, 'The Good Shepherd' has real difficulty making up its mind whether it wants to validate the CIA and US foreign policy or put forward the subversive suggestion that all institutional power including the government is naturally corrupt and regressive.

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