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Despite its flaws,The Good Germanis a welcome gift for every film lover who laments that "they don't make 'em like they used to." Steven Soderbergh's affectionate, knowing tribute to the black-and-white melodramas of Hollywood's golden age may lack the emotional depth and romantic passion of Michael Curtiz'sCasablanca--the 1946 classic it intentionally emulates--but as Soderbergh approximates Curtiz's studio style, he delivers a shimmering, shadowy reminder that movies can be enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of their craftsmanship. Once again serving as his own cinematographer (credited as "Peter Andrews"), Soderbergh went to great lengths to technically and aesthetically re-create the look and feel of a Curtiz production, and Joseph Kanon's source novel (adapted byQuiz Showscreenwriter Paul Attanasio) provides a twisting plot set around the historical Potsdam conference in post-World War II Germany. An American military journalist, Capt. Jake Geismer (George Clooney) is in rubble-strewn Berlin to cover the event, and is quickly drawn into a murder plot involving his appointed driver (Tobey Maguire), an old flame-turned-wartime prostitute (Cate Blanchett) and her missing husband, a scientist who possesses pivotal secrets coveted by Americans and Russians in a pre-Cold War bid for power.
Violence, sexual content, and salty dialogue make it clear that this R-rated drama is a brashly contemporary homage to films of a bygone era, and not a slavish attempt to copy the past. This yields mixed results in terms of the film's overall appeal; it's gorgeous to look at, but the plot and performances exist in a vacuum, and the entire film feels oddly disengaged from any sense of genuine human emotion. It's probably fair to say that Soderbergh had more fun making the film than most people will have watching it. And yet, as Clooney's character is repeatedly beaten and deceived on his path to cynical enlightenment,The Good Germanhas many qualities that make it recommendable, not the least being the pleasure of following a talented director as he indulges his penchant for bold experimentation.--Jeff Shannon
Nice to look at, but that's the only good thing I can say about it... It's beautifully filmed. Cate Blanchette in B&W, filmed in profile, is classic. Aside from that, the film is a horror. Wooden acting. One-dimensional characters. Boring and predictable plot. Utterly unbelievable story (Jewish woman married to S.S. man and NOT sent to the camps?! Uh-huh... Whatever...). Toby Macguire trying to be threatening is just toooo comical, as are the numerous scenes where George Clooney gets the heck beaten out of him.
As someone fascinated by the era in which this film is ostensibly set, I was too disappointed for words by how rotten this movie was. You'd think that a story like this would have at least a little bit of emotional impact, or would be somewhat interesting, or would maybe at worst be suspenseful fluff, but this movie really had nothing to recommend it except for being pretty to look at. It might be better as an art exibit, viewed with the sound turned off, purely for visual effect.
More an homage than a movie There's times where I don't really care for Steven Soderbergh movies. Traffic I felt was a compelling if overlong drama that had an aura of self-importance, like it was intentionally made to be one of those "important" films. The Good German sometimes feels like the same way: like it wants to be a classic noir film although the intent of course was for it to feel like a film that would've been made at RKO in the old days. While there's some things that feel out of place and just a genuine feeling of sluggishness, it's still a good homage to a classic time period.
Jake Geismser (George Clooney) is in Berlin covering the Potsdam Conference with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and President Roosevelt. He meets driver Tully (Tobey Maguire) who's a nice guy until he's left alone in where he becomes a scheming, violent firebrand. His girlfriend is prostitute Lena (Cate Blanchett) who of course has to be Geismer's ex. But the name "Emil Brandt" pops up which gets everyone riled up and a murder happens which gets Jake investigating on who the culprit is and what's so important about Emil Brandt.
I will say this: this film has the perfect 1940's feel, from the shadows to the staging, the overdramatic music and it's even presented in full-frame. Even if you don't like the movie, you got to admit they nailed the feel. As far as acting, we do have Clooney and Blanchett who almost were born to be in black and white with Blanchett looking the best. Only misstep was Maguire since he's not really menacing so much as he goes into temper tantrums. If he did this performance in Spider-Man 3, that movie would've benefited. He even rabbit punches a girl in this just so the filmmakers can let you know this guy's tough. Classically trained actors just needed to look at you to know he's not one to cross; Maguire has to actually be given something violent to do.
The problem with the movie as a whole is that it's just...kind of boring. It's as if more attention was paid to the look than the script. Casablanca was talky sure but at least it kept your interest. This feels like you're just checking the time code a lot wondering how long the movie's been on. But if you're one that prefers the old movies, you'll probably like this although a sex scene that would've got cut feels odd while there's tons of language to get thrown around. But, as far as a great B&W movie is concerned, Good Night and Good Luck is definately a better pick.
Either it's to preserve the "magic" of making the movie or just simply make special features unavailable until a bigger Special Edition is announced, it's really bare-bones. Unless you're a die-hard fan and have to own it, go ahead and buy it but for others, either rent it and test the waters or just wait.A director's indulgences turn a fine novel into an auteur's dream gone bad The Good German, the novel by Joseph Kanon, is a first-class thriller that makes some serious points. The Good German, the movie by Steven Soderbergh, isn't and doesn't.
Books and movies are different animals, and a fan is naive to think that the strengths of one can always be translated into the other. Director Soderbergh, in my view, in order to achieve two objectives doesn't even try. The first, notable only if the viewer hasn't read the book, is to change substantial elements of the plot and the characters for what seems no greater purpose than to create star roles for George Clooney and Tobey Maguire and "acting moments" for the two of them and Cate Blanchett. He also seems, as so many Hollywood factory philosophers seem compelled to do, to want to make obvious points about how awful some government actions can be, how hideous "end-justifies-the-means" activities are and how noble is the average guy, played by a Hollywood star lead, of course, in resisting all this. But much, much worse, Soderbergh has used The Good German as a toy. He has said he wanted to make the movie in the style of the old Forties movies. For the most part he shot everything on stage sets, used the old camera lenses, insisted on boom mikes for sound recording and played with the harsh light contrasts familiar from movies like The Third Man and the B-level noirs photographed by John Alton. He even was his own cinematographer and editor (under pseudonyms). What he came up with is a stilted drama so harshly lit that the movie is unpleasant to watch. The movie is a collection of deep, deep contrasts that give washed-out brightness, dead white faces and shadows so black anything might be happening. This must have been great fun for Soderbergh to create but it's hell for the movie viewer to sit through for nearly two hours.
The story, set in Berlin in 1945 when the Potsdam Conference is just starting, is hugely visual. There are desperate civilians everywhere, GIs living high, bombed-out ruins, war criminals being hunted by both the Soviets and the Americans, not to punish but, if they were rocket scientists, to bring back home. Intrigue and corruption bubble just below the rotten surface of the city. And Jake Geisner, played by George Clooney, finds himself up to his neck in intrigue when he spots a former mistress, Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett) and is assigned a GI driver, Patrick Tully (Tobey Maguire). Then a GI is murdered, which leads Geisner into some dangerous situations and some moral conflicts. Unfortunately, among all the specious changes Soderbergh makes in the story-line, the worst is the conclusion. Instead of a satisfying bit of justice served up with irony, as in the book, we have an irrelevant bit of knowledge tossed at us that serves no purpose but to create another acting moment for Clooney and Blanchett.
For me, even if I hadn't read the book this movie would have been a disappointment. It's an auteur's dream of a director's Hollywood clout, but gone bad. If Soderbergh doesn't get his act together soon, he'll wind up as a cautionary tale of talent being indulged, corrupted and wasted. I can't think of a movie of his I've seen since Out of Sight and The Limey that did much for me. Amid the Berlin debris, however, is the performance of Cate Blanchett. She looks awful in Soderbergh's unforgiving lighting and it's obvious at times that she's trying to channel Marlene Dietrich. Still, when she finally settles down into the part Blanchett gives a fine performance.
The DVD is bare-bones. Make sure you wear sunglasses if you watch it. For those who like to read thrillers and are intrigued with Germany right after the end of WWII, you won't do better than Ross Thomas' The Eighth Dwarf. And for those who want to see how dramatic lighting can really be used, try The Third Man or some of Alton's noirs. [[ASIN:0445407549 Eighth Dwarf]] [[ASIN:B000NOK0GM The Third Man - Criterion Collection (2-Disc Edition)]] [[ASIN:B0000CNY4Z He Walked By Night]] [[ASIN:B000B7QCT0 The Big Combo]]