A political thriller directed by Robert De Niro (A Bronx Tale), written by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), produced by Francis Ford Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Godfather: Part II), and starring Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, The Departed), Angelina Jolie (Wanted, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), Alex Baldwin (from television’s 30 Rock), Michael Gambon (Gosford Park, The King’s Speech), William Hurt (Altered States, A History of Violence), Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, Goodfellas), John Turturro (O Brother, Where ARt Thou, Barton Fink), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl), and De Niro. Pretty impressive roster! Plus it is a film about the beginnings of the CIA. It seems like all the ingredients are there to make this a winner. While it is not a terrible film it certainly isn’t one that adds up to the quality of those in front and behind the camera.
Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) is a true patriot; a man who totally believes in his country. So much so that he is willing to risk anything to keep it safe. As a young man he is recruited into the FBI and stationed in London during World War II. Work does not stop with the end of the war and so, Edward, though he is married to Margaret Russell (Angelina Jolie) and father to his son, Edward (Tommy Nelson – Moonrise Kingdom), remains stationed in Europe, in Berlin.
After the War is the time in which the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia begins. Edward recruits a KGB agent to feed him information. He also works with British agents. His whole life is the spy world. Time marches on and his wife gets further and further away emotionally and his son grows up to a young adult.
The more time marches on the more paranoid Edward becomes. He trusts no one. His loyalty to his country has forced him to give up all the important things in life like family, love and friendships. As such he is lonely and resentful.
The film shows that the life of a spy is not all glamour, wearing tuxedos, fast cars, and sleeping with beautiful women. It is often dangerous and always tedious. It is not a life that allows for family or close ties to people. Trying to get information and spinning lies is not a breeding ground for trust or establishing relationships.
De Niro has created a film that centers on mood, look and tone rather than the humans involved. As such, I found it nice to look at, but could not really get invested in what was happening. It does bring up questions surrounding trust and loyalty, but in a rather arms length kind of way. The humanity of it all is rather lost in the technical side.
All is done rather subtly here. It is a film all about a look, a nervous twitch or the tone of voice used. Hints and clues are tucked away in those fleeting moments. It expects much of the viewer including patience and intelligence. You will not get the film’s full value unless you really pay attention.