The birth of the CIA was apparently accomplished by a bunch of gray-faced, unassuming men from the same social milieu, who wore dull suits and neglected their private lives for the good of their country. Edward Wilson (Damon) knocks up and then marries senator's daughter Clover (Jolie), but that is about the most human behavior he'll show in decades as he moves from WWII through the Cold War with paranoia as his distinguishing characteristic. De Niro's second directorial effort is a long slog through the spy biz where everyone lies and betrays. If you want to see a spymaster at work, watch Alec Guinness in any of his incarnations as George Smiley; at least he's more human than robotic.
It struck me how little the main character (played by Matt
Damon) actually does in this movie. He never makes any active
choices - when he is directing things for the CIA, he announces,
and others carry out his decisions. He is pretty blank as a
character. He does make a couple of choices with regard to his
son, though. But he also doesn't choose to deter his son beyond his vague suggestions about life in the CIA. Most other
decisions are made for him and he follows orders when he is not
giving orders. He does make the choice to turn around in the
hallway and go back to the Skull and Bones innitiation. He
chooses that life. He does what is expected of him. He has sex when he is dragged into it, he gets married when the girl getspregnant, he goes overseas when asked.