(2 1/2 *'s) It's no surprise after the success of `Good Night and Good Luck,' George Clooney and Steven Sodenheim would team up to create another vintage historical drama of great import. Unfortunately, despite being filmed in stunning black and white and recorded with an authentically old-fashioned score, the movie threads together monumental history and a detective tale in a way that isn't as cohesive or focused as the former triumph. There are solid moments to be sure: Clooney plays U.S. army correspondent, Jake Geismer (Clooney), relocating to Germany to seek normalcy and find Lena (Cate Blanchett) an old flame. In the midst of the drama are stunning newsreels of Potsdam as both Superpowers seek German war rocket scientist, Franz Bettman (David Willis), a human focal point demonstrating the emerging Cold War. Impressively, they give us a feel for Europe (particularly Berlin) as it's being divied up between the power brokers.
The story starts solidly enough with an army driver, Patrick Tully (performed with punk kid-toughness by Tobey McGuire) who picks up Jake and quickly makes a connection with Lena, whom Tully keeps like a pimp possession. From there Jake connects the dots in his investigation that brings him more and more mystery than he originally bargained for. Some of the film's best moments come when they pause to reflect on the aftermath of the war and it's ramifications for psychological casualties in the film's present (July, 1945) and their future. (A poignant reminder comes into play when one camera store owner is shown strapped to a rolling dolly because he lost his legs in The War.)
Some of the tough, private eye maneuvering by Clooney and (especially) a fine performance by the versatile Blanchett, we get the goods, even if at times the mixture doesn't always translate into the sort of urgency we'd expect from such important material. Kudos for the authenticity, though. If there weren't expletives in the movie, I'd have sworn I was watching a flick from the forties. Clooney's no Humphrey Bogart, and Blanchett is (almost) no Ingrid Bergman, but with a few tense scenes and some big ideas, they almost pull it off.
Viewers are split on reaction to Steven Soderbergh's experimental THE GOOD GERMAN and for good reason. The theatrical and cinematic qualities of this film noir are stunning, creating not only a flashback to the 1940s films but to the period of the 1940s in postwar Europe. The story is rich in suspense, visual surprises, and intrigue, and manages to unfold a complex tale involving many characters in a manner that keeps the viewer guessing about the outcome until the final image fades. But the film … more
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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'ssource 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 ...