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Overall Rating
3.45

Awesome: 22.58%
Worth A Look: 22.58%
Average41.94%
Pretty Bad: 3.23%
Total Crap: 9.68%

4 reviews, 7 user ratings


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Good German, The
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by Lybarger

"Why couldn’t it have been “The Better German?”"
3 stars

Director Steven Soderbergh’s approach to his latest movie “The Good German” is more intriguing to think about than it is to watch. Imagine making a movie set in the 1940s using the same techniques filmmakers of the day were using: large boom microphones, black-and-white photography and Hollywood back lot sets, meant to resemble anywhere else in the world. Because so much of what we think we know about the past comes from Tinseltown depictions, Soderbergh’s idea makes sense. Until you see the actual film.

“The Good German” features a potentially fascinating story (by Paul Attanasio working from Joseph Kanon’s novel) that almost gets lost through all the technical doodling. In some ways, “The Good German” demonstrates why filmmakers gradually abandoned the techniques that were standard operating procedure when “Casablanca” was filmed.

“The Good German” concerns a military journalist named Capt. Jake Geismer (George Clooney), who’s been assigned by The New Republic to cover the final peace negotiations at Potsdam. It seems like a relatively easy assignment because the Germans have been clobbered, and all the Allies have to do is carve up what’s left of the Third Reich.

When he arrives Jake discovers that his former mistress Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett) and his driver Patrick Tully (Tobey Maguire) are now an item. Tulley comes off to Jake and others like an amiable fellow, but he has no qualms about swiping Jake’s wallet or backstabbing anyone else who gets in his way.

This volatile triangle, of course, leads to murder and the unearthing of the ugly process that goes into ending ugly wars. As “The Good German” unfolds, Soderbergh finds ways to use Clooney and Maguire that other filmmakers haven’t considered.

Clooney projects a sense of authority and confidence, so it’s intriguing to see him portraying a character who’s actually naïve and overwhelmed by his circumstances. Seeing his swagger crumble helps give the film a sense of tension it might not have had otherwise.

Maguire has usually played male ingénues, so it’s fascinating to see him play such a depraved character. In some ways, Tully’s genial manner is genuine because he has no sense of the consequences his duplicity will bring.

Unfortunately, most of the other characters in “The Good German” come off equally loathsome and not as interesting. There’s a sense of nihilism that runs throughout “The Good German” that the movies it imitates never had. At times it’s hard to care who emerges from the crisis despite all that has happened during the war. Yes, the new film has the sex and the profanity we crave in current entertainment, but it wouldn’t have been much fun to watch Rick turn in Victor and Ilsa in “Casablanca.”

Key revelations happen abruptly, muting their impact. In addition, Soderbergh’s retro style ultimately proves detrimental. By using sets instead of real or dressed up European locations, it becomes increasingly difficult to buy into the story.

The claustrophobic atmosphere reveals the budget limitations. One of the great things about “The Third Man,” which “The Good German” owes an enormous debt,” was that it combined the eerie but beautiful war-torn Vienna with British sets. There was a sense of both danger and wonder that’s missing here.

I still admire the risks that Soderbergh and his collaborators have taken with “The Good German,” but by their nature risks don’t always pay off.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15290&reviewer=382
originally posted: 12/17/06 05:39:41
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User Comments

2/19/10 brian If you're looking for a movie with nothing but loathsome characters, you've found it. 1 stars
3/22/09 Dane Youssef Focuses too much on paying homage to the classics and not enough as a stand-alone film. 2 stars
9/24/07 Nicholas Maday I can appreciate what Soderbergh was trying to do, but I hated it. 1 stars
9/09/07 Perry Luntz ` 4 stars
7/24/07 Jefenator A subtly modern, supercharged homage to the classics. I totally bought it. 5 stars
7/02/07 Helen Bradley Very boring slow paced poorly edited 1 stars
4/05/07 William Goss Interesting enough, if only in a technical sense. Maguire irritates, although not for long. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 22-May-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  08-Mar-2007




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