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Friday, December 11, 2009


For most of its 3-hr running time, you can’t be sure if CIA operations or Robert De Niro’s megging will end up looking more inept. (The story is presumably a fictionalized version of James Jesus Angleton’s disastrous pilgrim’s progress inside the walls of the agency.) Why did De Niro, who could barely handle the rigors of a modest family drama on his last directing gig (A BRONX TALE/’93) think he’d be able to handle this epic tale? His idea of pacing stumbles from one quietly somber, under-lit scene to the next, never quite making contact with the plot element needn’t to vivify Eric Roth’s ultra-suave script. Compared to this, John Le Carré plots like Agatha Christie. De Niro must have really called in the favors to land so many fine actors in roles so ill-suited or under-written. Joe Pesci, Tim Hutton, Keir Dullea are window dressing, while poor Billy Crudup embarrasses himself with a Looney Tunes British accent. ‘Pip, pip, cheerio, my good man.’ Oy! Only the great Michael Gambon, playing a professor with a yen for poesy, spying & handsome juniors, earns points (the man is indestructible). As for the leads, Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, John Turturro & Alec Baldwin have rarely been less effective while William Hurt has. De Niro gives himself a plum little part so he can dress himself up as . . . Marty Scorsese! How this vanity project received decent reviews is something of a mystery. Maybe the CIA should look into it?

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