by RISHI AGRAWAL
This is not going to be a first for Commentary Track, but I will tell you up front that I have not seen this movie. We are committed to recommending a DVD every week, and some weeks, none of our writers have seen any of the films being released on DVD. As we’re up to three writers right now, this is becoming increasingly rare, but it happened this week. I had actually seen one of the releases, Volver, but it is not something I would feel comfortable recommending. So, I am going to go with The Good Shepherd, which, if I had to choose a DVD to watch from this week’s releases, that would be the one.
Believe it or not, a lot of Oscar bloggers start releasing their early predictions now. They are rarely accurate, but I still find the process somewhat interesting. Now that the 2007 Academy Awards are in the bag, I dug through the archives to see how accurate the super early predictions were. One thing I noticed is that The Good Shepherd popped up on a lot of lists, and lots of people in Hollywood thought this was going to be a phenomenal movie. Sure, Robert De Niro was virtually untested as a director, but he had a great cast that included Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Alec Baldwin. Plus, he had a great story about the early history of the CIA.
So, what went wrong for this picture? According to critics that I have read, the movie could have used some trimming. At 167 minutes, the movie felt a little bloated. (And, just to be clear, I am not arguing against long movies, but I am saying that this particular film looks like it went a little long.) Also, many critics felt the film seemed a little insipid and dull.
I know I am not making a great case for this movie, but almost all the critics agree that the film was well-made. It seems that with a few judicious cuts and a slight increase in energy, this would have been an Oscar-caliber film. As it is, it is just a good movie that seemed destined for greatness. What draws me to this movie is that it is a near-great film, and that concept fascinates me, thinking about where it missed and how it didn’t achieve the heights that it was supposed to.
The film doesn’t look like it has any special features except for deleted scenes, so this looks like a rental, not a purchase. It is available in widescreen and full-screen formats and also in HD DVD.
Other new releases this week: Black Christmas, Charlotte’s Web, Death of a President, Volver