Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Good Shepherd

Given recent postings here and broader conversations elsewhere about torture, secrecy, and even the CIA, I thought I would give a brief response to my viewing via DVD last night of The Good Shepherd, a movie directed by Robert De Niro and starring Matt Damon, along with Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, and other well known actors.

It is a movie about the CIA and its birth. The story is fictional and yet seeks to present an accurate portrait of the Agency, it's birth, and it's purpose. This isn't the greatest spy movie ever as some of the PR suggests, but it is a movie that should be viewed. Unlike your typical James Bond romps (though there's plenty of sex) this movie is disturbing (and not because of the sex). It really focuses on what happens to a person who enters a secret world where even family is sacrificed for the good of the country. We see in the movie how the soul of a person is destroyed by the cloak and dagger realities of Agency life.
This is brought home early in the film, when the central character, played by Matt Damon, faces the prospect of watching his British spy mentor and his former Yale Poetry professor, be knocked off because his homosexual liaisons had endangered his work, during WWII.
The former professor says to him just moments before being killed by his own people -- "Get out while you can Edward. Get out while you still have a soul." But while he grieves what comes next, he can't get out. He's been sucked in and that choice destroys his marriage and colors his relationship with his son.
As with the discussion of torture, we must ask the question -- what is appropriate for a civilized society to engage in? The movie will force you to wrestle with the question -- including the issue of torture, for a scene shows the use of water boarding and LSD to "get the truth," which really wasn't the point of the interrogation. I'd be interested to hear from others who have seen the movie, to hear their impressions.

1 comment:

Doug said...

Your review sums up my feelings exactly. I was left wondering about the choices the main character (Edward) made along the way. He starts off as such a nice boy, but then gives up so much in his personal life (yes, his soul basically) for a goal that seems hardly worth the price he paid.