Godfather-like in its scale and in the artistic vision of director Robert De Niro (with help from executive producer Francis Ford Coppola), The Good Shepherd attempts the impossible: to make a saga about the CIA as grand and engrossing as the one about the American Mafia. It fails, of course, if only for its lack of action to break up the endless coded whispers of ghostly men in gray suits. But there's still a lot of fun to be had in watching the parade of actors - including Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, and, yes, De Niro, too - trying to leave an indelible impression without raising their voices.
As if to counteract the coldness of the government spies' sad lives, there's an unusual warmth to the images. Along with the transfer's finely tuned contrast levels, this gives an air of authenticity to all the rich period details - from cars and storefronts to old-fashioned suits and modest dresses - as well as the hermetically sealed government buildings and opulent mansions of the privileged class. In keeping with the chilly tone of the story, the soundtrack is restrained, almost hushed, as the effects and even the icy music of Bruce Fowler and Marcelo Zarvos hide well below the dialogue.
The disc's only extra is 16 minutes worth of deleted scenes. This adds some telling background on a few characters and resurrects an entire subplot, but it left me yearning for some insights from the always reticent De Niro. [R] English, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.
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