Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
The Good Shepherd, for all its noble intentions, manages to make even espionage boring.
It's a long (nearly three hours), deliberately paced film, and an intelligent one.
This rangy spy saga, odd but not unrewarding, oscillates between murmured, hushed skullduggery and the eerie quiet of its central character.
Perhaps it's fitting that a movie about the early CIA be tangled and opaque, but this drama loosely based on the life of uberspook James Angleton verges on incoherence.
Damon is solid as usual, but as the film rolls into hour three, his inscrutability starts to feel less like a personality trait than an unwillingness to develop the character.
Except for helping you maintain a consistently slow pulse rate, The Good Shepherd isn't good for much.
The Good Shepherd leaves you longing for the other, better political thrillers it evokes.
Los Angeles Times:
An intricate, deliberately paced 2-hour and 37-minute work that not only quietly presents this quicksand world but also makes us feel what it would be like to live in it.
The Good Shepherd is a painstakingly composed film, as planned and programmed and puzzled over as tactical maneuvers on a chessboard.
Robert De Niro sat at the feet of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, and learned his lessons well.
Painfully overlong, weighed down by its own self-conscious seriousness and filled with nonsurprises, The Good Shepherd will appeal only to those who like dreary tales filled with unlikable characters.
A buttoned-up, shadowy dramatic recounting of the early days of the buttoned-up, shadowy Central Intelligence Agency.
Detroit Free Press:
The Good Shepherd is a quietly sweeping, intensely intelligent and nail-biting history of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Dallas Morning News:
Told with a visual efficiency that belies the film's considerable length, Shepherd is a muscular, unsentimental movie about shadow warriors and dark compromises. It takes its audience's intelligence for granted and rewards it at every turn.
It's almost impossible to buy Wilson as a pioneer who helped shape one of the world's most intricate and devious intelligence agencies, leaving us to wonder how the CIA could ever have gotten off the ground through the labors of such an utter stiff.
Imagine a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant version of the first two Godfather movies drained of operatic passion but left with all their epochal sweep, double-dealing violence and richly detailed verisimilitude.
Even if the movie's vast reach exceeds its grasp, it's a spellbinding history lesson.
It's a rich concept -- The Godfather, Part II set in Langley, Va. -- and it might have been a classic if someone like Francis Ford Coppola had come out of semi-retirement to direct it.
New York Daily News:
If the lives of CIA spies are really this dreary, they may as well keep their secrets to themselves.
New York Observer:
No previous American film has ventured into this still largely unknown territory with such authority and emotional detachment. For this reason alone, The Good Shepherd is must-see viewing.
It's a perfectly paranoid world that director Robert De Niro chronicles in this patient, methodical thriller.
The Good Shepherd is equally fascinating as a character drama and as a cold war thriller.
De Niro seems to be good with actors but less successful at stringing a movie together, and keeping it together, scene by scene.
Walter V. Addiego,
San Francisco Chronicle:
Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd is a remarkable study of the corrosive effects of fear and power on an establishment insider who puts duty above all else.
Globe and Mail:
The Good Shepherd is a flat draft of history that looks at the Central Intelligence Agency's early years through the horn-rimmed gaze of a fictional spook.
It's like watching a fish stare at you from inside the magnifying wall of an aquarium, and about as exciting.
The film's watchable enough if you're indulgent of its flaws but at 167 minutes it does tax the patience.
De Niro juggles the myriad big-picture parts with reserved professionalism; it's the central character, ironically, that's the movie's Achilles' heel.
The mesmerizing espionage thriller chronicles the inception and ascendancy of the CIA.
As long as it is, Shepherd speeds through its leading man's life, cramming in 30 years without elaborating on any of them.
The Good Shepherd is serious adult moviemaking, a truly surprising effort from De Niro, a man deeply interested in the art, craft and psychology of espionage.