My wife and I have been seriously in movie mode for the last couple of weeks. We've hit the Pay-Per-View OnDemand thingy two weekends running trying to find something to entertain our over-active, under-slept minds. With a two- and five-year-old running about bombarding our gray matter with Teletubbies and Dora the Explorer, it's nice to occasionally get a chance to see something addressed to grown-ups.
One of the primary problems with that, however, is me. My mind doesn't suspend disbelief. I've come to believe it may actually be some sort of neurological disorder (which explains a lot of other things too), but my wife simply says I'm not able to do it. Not that I won't do it, because Lord knows I try, but that I am genuinely not able to do it. So I have a tendency to ruin movies ... for everyone sitting near me. I've done it to her so many times now she's getting as bad as I am about it.
Last weekend it was a couple of piles of steaming monkey feces called "Children of Men" and an even worse "De Ja Vu." Neither of them were worth the hours invested in sitting in front of the idiot box to watch them, never mind what it cost me monetarily to pay for them. Weak plots, overwrought efforts at tension and suspense ... all for some really bad movies. While I don't want to make an indictment on the actors themselves, I've seen Denzel Washington be better. And don't even get me started on the time travel thing.
"Children of Men" was just a long series of impossibilities all strewn together for the sake of trying to tell a human interest story without ever bothering to explain why we got to the opening premise of the movie in the first place, which was so pivotal it kept pulling the viewer (me) out of the plot anyway. If you're going to offer a premise you'd better be able to offer some sort of explanation for it so that the rest of the movie isn't hinged on something that can't be explained. Duh.
... and, my loving wife has informed/reminded me that we also sat through another, even bigger pile of rubbish called "The Fountain", with what she terms the "nice-to-look-at Hugh Jackman". (He's not, as she puts it, Johnny Depp nice, but nice just the same.) I won't even go into that one ... I've never been so unable to follow a movie in my life, and I sat through "2001: A Space Odyssey". I'll leave it at that.
This weekend we made better choices. The first of which was "Breach", an adaptation of the Robert Hanssen espionage case that the FBI broke back in 2001 about seven months before the 9/11 attacks. It's a good movie, but full of what I'm sure represents artistic license in the story. Don't ask me why; the intriguing tale of a man that sells out his country for ego and what he claims is "patriotism" is surely an interesting story factually recounted. Especially when he got away with it, duping the entire U.S. intelligence community for 25 years.
Anyway, it was a well-acted (for the most part) and very good story. It has its weak spots, as do all movies; in particular the ending. It could've been done more powerfully, but that's just my opinion. Still, a very good movie. This was my second viewing. The first was on a plane trip to or from Puerto Rico for business (I can't remember whether I was coming or going now). This time I was watching on a screen that was marginally larger than the 9" CRT of the Boeing 757 I was riding at the time. I also had the benefit of our surround sound system for dialog, too.
But the movie we chose tonight was probably the best movie I've seen in a number of years ... no fewer than three, and maybe more. It might be the best movie I've seen since "Saving Private Ryan," but then, I don't get to the movies much anymore, and we don't watch them regularly. That disclaimer is only to shore up the fact that I state that this was the best movie I've seen in a long, long time -- your mileage, of course, may vary.
The movie? "Good Shepherd", with Matt Damon, Robert De Niro (who also directed), Angelina Jolie and William Hurt. The plot centers on the birth of the Central Intelligence Agency and its role in the events preceding and immediately following the botched and embarrassing Bay of Pigs escapade of 1961.
Since the movie's an old one by most standards, and most everyone reading this couldn't care less for my plot summary, I'll simply state that the movie is brilliantly written and acted. Matt Damon was on camera a lot, but spoke very, very little. He captured and conveyed so much in his silence that it was incredible. And Angelina Jolie, while not a brilliant actress in my estimation, was very passable as a CIA operative's alcoholic wife. The other players did their roles well, and it was a great piece of work. Not an edge-of-your-seat kind of movie, but still thick with plot and story. The last half hour of the movie is an intense and interesting series of events involving Matt Damon's son, his fiancee ( a Soviet operative who decides to settle down and leave the spy game), and the U.S.S.R. counter-intelligence operative. A really great twist at the end there, and it makes for a good ending that wraps the movie up well.
Overall, if I were a movie critic (and God knows I critique everything anyway), I'd have scored this one very highly. Very highly indeed. If you haven't seen the movie, and are looking for a good way to pass almost three hours, this is a good one.
Matt Damon, as an aside, is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. I haven't seen him in a lot of stuff, but everything I've seen him do has been great work. From "Good Will Hunting" to "The Bourne Identity" and "The Bourne Supremacy", he's showing me a lot that I never thought I'd see from him.
Anyway, I recommend "The Good Shepherd" highly. I actually got into the movie, and like I said, that's a rare, rare thing for me.