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The Spy Who Didn't Love Anyone
on 9 May 2007
This is a long, sombre film that charts the origins of the CIA from its WWII OSS roots. It follows the career of Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), a privileged Yale graduate, up to 1961 and the Bay of Pigs invasion into Cuba.
Along the way, we are shown that the early CIA was a bastion of the Ivy League Establishment. We are also given a hard look at the types of people with a flair for Intelligence work - there are no James Bonds here. Damon does well with a character it's hard to empathise with, who always puts his work first and lets his family life suffer. (The casting of Angelina Jolie as Damon's put-upon wife seemed to be stretching a point though!)
This film is an antidote to the usual, glamorous depictions of espionage that cinema gives us. The Agency operatives here, and their Russian counterparts, seem like staid civil servants most of the time, which makes the occasional scenes of violence all the more chilling, especially as there is nothing stylised about them.
The cast here is first rate (Joe Pesci has an especially entertaining cameo as a Meyer Lansky Mob figure, whose help the CIA attempt to enlist prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion - though it is not explained that Castro had confiscated the Mob's Cuban casinos upon coming to power).
De Niro has given us a film that soberly examines the world of spies and starkly shows us the human cost of the games they play.