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(Review originally written at 7 July 2007)

This always looked like a good movie but I was afraid it would a difficult one and one that would be not always easy to follow. A typical movie that would also be full of itself and would try and look smarter and extra complicated than really necessary. I'll admit that in the beginning it also looked that way, when it kept jumping back and forth between past and present time. It made it hard to always understand what was going on and who all those characters were. But about halve an hour through the movie it got better and more understandable to follow, since it also becomes slowly obvious that the leaps in time were put in for story purposes and in the end were also actually essential for the movie.

The movie is still an hard one to follow at certain points, which is mostly due to the many characters and names appearing in the movie. It gets all the more complicated when it seems that not all characters are who they say they are. The movie is especially difficult if you don't know at forehand what it is about. It doesn't become obvious in the movie until late that it's about the founding of the CIA.

The movie its story didn't seemed to be the most interesting or intriguing (At first I was like; Oh no! Not another movie about the cold war!) one to follow but the movie makes some interesting and great choices, that always keep the movie intriguing, mysterious and in parts even tense. Thank the writer and director for that!

It seems to me that the movie was deliberately kept small. They could had easily overblown things, especially with this sort of cast but every character and role in the movie is as big as needed and the movie does not have the usually typical thriller elements or other action spy-movie elements, though the movie in essence of course still is a spy-movie. The fact that the movie wasn't made as big was probably also a reason why this movie was a pleasant one to watch.

The cast is great. Robert De Niro obviously had no difficulties with getting some big names to appear in his movie. Some even settle with appearing in some small roles. I'm talking about people such as Michael Gambon, John Turturro, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Alec Baldwin (it's funny, the older he gets, the better his acting) and even Angelina Jolie, who is the second billing actor of the movie its role is kept small. It's really not the sort of role she usually plays. Also De Niro himself makes an appearance in the movie as does his good friend Joe Pesci, with his first role in 8 years.

The main character is not always an easy one. It's a very quiet man, who also doesn't really seem to known how to express his feelings and therefor not the most appealing character, though definitely not the least interesting one of the movie. It's the reason why this probably isn't one of Matt Damon's most memorable roles but it of course doesn't mean that he didn't do a great job.

What probably surprised me most about the movie was how well balanced it was. It isn't just a 'drama' it isn't just a 'thriller', it's a mix of several genre styles that all work out great together. Especially the relationship elements of the movie worked out well. Normally it's just put in the movie for commercial reasons and to appeal more to a certain group of audience. But in this case it was a real enrichment for the movie and its story.

The movie also definitely has style. Visually the movie is good looking with the good cinematography from Robert Richardson and the nice looking sets and costumes that help to set up the right atmosphere for the movie, that's also consistent with the time period the movie is set in.

Of course there still are some lesser things about the movie but especially for a 'non-director' like Robert De Niro is, it's a really great and well made movie.

8/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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