Having never seen his other movies, I still should have realized Robert DeNiro was going to be a perfectionist as a director, as he is as an actor. It’s been so long that I had almost forgotten the pleasure of watching a film as nuanced and rich as The Good Shepherd. There wasn’t a wasted sequence in the three hours it ran, and the irony didn’t escape me that half the theater walked out on a movie whose title implied the blissful masses were the CIA’s sheep.
DeNiro’s character, based on Gen. “Wild Bill” Donovan, once said that conservatives were those who believed people were flawed, and liberals were those who believed people could be changed. DeNiro’s film, particularly in this war, is a daring discussion about the motives, good or wrong, for sacrificing liberties (and how much!) at wartime.
Wild Bill, who ruthlessly hired socialists, liberals, and even communists in his intelligence battle, was a viciously pragmatic man, and he defended his men to the end when the OSS was investigated by the McCarthyists. He said “We face an enemy who believes one of his chief weapons is that none but he will employ terror. But we will turn terror against him…”