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Third Men Don't Wear Plaid on a Night in Casablanca
mick-13730 September 2008
Unforgivable pastiche of some infinitely better movies. George Clooney is a journalist sent to cover the 1945 Potsdam conference and in typical movie journalist fashion somehow manages to do no work whatsoever while being drawn into a web of mystery and intrigue. He's possibly the least effectual thriller hero of all time, more Holly Golightly than Holly Martins, and one of the few pleasures the film offers is wondering who will be the next character to jump him from behind and beat him senseless. Will it be the double amputee? The little boy with the bicycle? Absurdities abound, there's unforgivable misuse of narration and all the moody black-and-white photography in the world couldn't make up for a plot more full of holes than the buildings of post-War Berlin. All this could have been redeemed by a bit of chemistry between the leads or some lively pacing but everybody involved seems to be half asleep, possibly numbed into submission by the dreary sub-Elgarian score. The only good thing about this movie is that you leave with a greatly enhanced respect for the skill and sophistication of the bygone filmmakers whose work it so singularly fails to emulate.
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Great book ruined in film
wwm_mem14 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I loved the film noir aspect of this film, I think the director captured the genre. However, I think the screenplay ruined the movie. The book was excellent but the screenplay changed the characters so much that the movie was ruined for me. Lena was NOT a prostitute or a Jew and she didn't turn in other Jews for the Nazi's. Tully didn't even know Jake. The German cop was the good German. Emil Brandt was not a secretary or a good guy. Why make Lena a horrible person and then turn around and make her husband who was a horrible person someone who wanted to come clean. If you've read the book, don't bother with the movie. You'll hate it.
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The Good German is an ironic comment on Good Americans
d7eb200025 November 2006
This movie is an homage not only to the vocabulary of film noir , but also to its social and political genesis. Film Noir developed after World War II and was an outgrowth of both the cynicism that was generated by WW II because it turned out to need another war to be the war to end all wars.... and because of the enormous evil that World War II revealed in contradistinction to the sunny idealism of the American Project.

Film Noir of the 40's and 50's was a reaction to WW II, but those films themselves were always crime stories about naive men dragged into terrible circumstances through the lure of seductive, dangerous women. But they were never about the war itself or anything to do with the war itself. WWII movies were patriotic paeans to heroism like 30 Seconds over Tokyo or the common man like A Walk in the Sun or home front heroism like Mrs. Mininver. Indeed only Casablanca itself, as exemplified early on by Rick's character was suffused with some of the cynicism that we see in film noir, but the reason Casablance is beloved is because the cynicism melts away in the the understanding that there is something greater than one's own preservation.

What is wonderful about the Good German is that it is a Film Noir film about the War itself and also about war in general...then and now. The film and its concerns are not dated or meaningless, but very much of the moment.

The film also pays visual homage to other movies of the era, from the warm hearted cynicism of Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair with Jean Arthur as the parochial Congressperson (like in this film) and Marlene Dietrich as the dangerous vamp with a dark past. Roberto Rossellini's Germany:Year Zero, shot in postwar Berlin, shows how fear, deprivation and terror destroy the soul as ell as the body.

The Congressman is not just a boob but a participant in the propagation of evil and the Good American General of Beau Bridges is anything but good. Indeed, as we know now Americans protected Nazis who could help us in terms of confronting the next evil--Communism and Russia. And the story they tell about the V-2 rocket is true. The Germans and Werner van Braun used up the lives and caused the deaths of Jewish and other POW's slave labor to create and launch them and we, in terms of the American occupation and the incipient CIA aka the OSS, helped mass murderers to safety.

Even the lawyer Teitel, the man researching the Nuremberg Trials, whose sole purpose is to pursue Justice, can be compromised. Tobey Maguire was chosen to play the vicious, venal Tully because to most American audiences he, as Peter Parker, typifies the best of America. He is meant to be jarring to the audience. Lena, indeed is the vamp, but unlike old film noir like Out of the Past, she doesn't lead Jake on, Jake misleads himself about her. She is just a desperate woman struggling to survive.

Some would say this is a movie about moral ambiguities, but I think it's not that ambiguous. The filmmakers have cast judgment on some of our post war behavior and found it wanting.

The only romanticism in this movie is in the style, a valentine to the look of old movies; there is no romanticism in its view of America at war.
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I know what Soderbergh is doing here. That doesn't mean I have to like it.
MBunge6 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Good German is an experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong, like Frankenstein's Monster or Crystal Pepsi. Director Stephen Soderbergh somehow got it into his head to mimic films from the 1940s. Not be inspired by them or pay homage to them, but literally imitate their look and sound and feel. I'm not sure that's a good idea in the first place and then Soderbergh does it in such a self-conscious, grating and ponderous fashion that he creates a film that is, to all intents and purposes, unwatchable.

Jake Geismer (George Clooney) is a war correspondent sent to post-WWII Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference of Truman, Churchill and Stalin. It's a good thing there were other reporters there because Jake completely blows off that historic event to instead get mixed up in a simple yet confusing mystery involving his older German lover Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett) and a rough-edged Army corporal named Tully (Tobey Maguire). Lena desperately wants to get out of Berlin and there are more than a few men willing to help her, some out of love and others for her help in keeping a secret. The unfocused story touches rather ham handedly on collective German guilt over the Holocaust, the first rumblings of the Cold War, the Nazi contribution to the U.S. missile program, life in the rubble of post-War Berlin and Jake Geismer being the biggest wuss in Europe. Seriously, Geismer gets his ass kicked so regularly it's like a running gag, except this movie isn't a comedy.

I wasn't exaggerating when I described The Good German as a bad replica of a 1940s film. It's in black-and-white and Soderbergh uses the same sort of camera work, lighting and stage blocking as that era. He incessantly blasts scenes with the same kind of melodramatic theme music as that time. The movie is littered with stock footage of post-War Germany. Soderbergh even uses 1940's style editing techniques to segue from one scene to another. If that sort of overdrive nostalgia sounds like it might be neat, trust me. It's not.

The problem is that all that effort is painfully purposeless. There's no point at all to any of that cinematic affectation. It doesn't lead anywhere or do anything to enhance the story. There's no metacommentary of any sort at work here. It's just a 21st century filmmaker apparently entertaining himself by regurgitating nearly 60 year old cinema. Imagine seeing modern NBA players trying to replicate on the court the way players shot, dribbled and passed back in the 1940s. It would look artificial and forced and out of sync. That's a great description of The Good German.

Making matters worse, Soderbergh was apparently so caught up in his duplication efforts that he didn't notice that his story meanders and stops making sense at a couple points. He was also oblivious to his three big stars giving atrocious performances. Tobey Maguire's acting ranges from looking like he's reading off cue cards to raging like a meth addict who just smoked some crank. George Clooney is essentially doing a time traveling version of Danny Ocean. And Cate Blanchett seems to be focusing all her energy into speaking two octaves lower than her normal voice.

It was a struggle to make it all the way through this movie. Like being stuck in a time warp where the seconds become minutes and the minutes become hours, the length of this film stretched out longer than the Pleistocene Era. I started to root for everyone to die in an anachronistic atomic explosion, just so this bleepin' piece of crap would end.

One thing this film does prove is the old adage that when it comes to making movies, nobody knows nothing'. Soderbergh and Clooney have teamed up to do some excellent work and then they collaborate on this punishing waste of time and money.

Stay far away from The Good German.
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A director's indulgences turn a fine novel into an auteur's dream gone bad
Terrell-431 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
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.

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.
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Homage or Pastiche?
Lejink27 November 2007
I'm not sure about the answer to my question. With its stylistic nods to 40's noir thrillers like "Notorious", "The Third Man", "Gilda" and at the end, "Casablanca", "The Good German" aims high but ultimately falls flat under the weight of an incomprehensible plot peopled by too many characters. Moreover, none of said characters evinces any sympathy so that as the body-count mounts up towards the end and even as Clooney and Blanchett remain standing to take their relationship who knows where, ultimately you don't really care either way, distracted as you are by the various cinematic reference points - I even detected an in-joke at the expense of "The Pianist". The film is beautifully shot with many attractive framing and tracking shots in luminous monochrome, but the acting quality is distinctly mixed, with Clooney never quite achieving Joseph Cotten standards as he takes hits from almost everyone in sight and Blanchett struggling to emote beyond her sub-Deitrich accent. Tobey Maguire seems to me altogether too typecast in his winsome underdog parts ("Spider Man", "Sea Biscuit") to wholly convince as Clooney's somewhat callous, duplicitous driver who gets in too deep and you don't believe Blanchett's even thinly-veiled attraction to him either. I did enjoy the nostalgic tricks employed by Soderburgh, for example the left to right dissolves between scenes and the musical motifs which accompany the various characters but there are also too many shots of Clooney walking off-shot, or tossing away a cigarette or worst just gazing into space. All told, you'd be better off renting out one of the source movies mentioned above to see how it should be done.
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40's Movie styling does not a thriller make.
Espontaneo12 February 2007
Soderbergh continues to experiment, but as with Solaris, it just doesn't pay off.

Its clear that from the off that Soderbergh has set himself a strict mandate for this film, make it as much like a forties movie as possible. The music, the acting style, the lighting, the process shots and background paintings all give it a great look and feel.

However, everything is so low key and downbeat that it fails to deliver any suspense or menace. What is essentially a modern thriller dressed as classic noir just isn't thrilling. The plot twist and turns but the drama is never heightened, the pace never seems to increase, it just plods along to its conclusion.

Apart from the sex and swearing, the actors seem straight jacketed into their roles by the 40's styling seemingly because the script lacks any of the dry wit and charm you'd find in a genuine movie of this era. George Clooney for example has every little to do, his character has none of the snappy dialog you'd expect, given his Marlowe-esquire role in the plot. Soderbergh compounds matters by drawing an unfortunate comparison with Bogart. Though generally the acting was of the high quality you'd expect from such a sterling cast, it's difficult to empathise with their characters plights given the lack of suspense or melodrama.

Overall the experiment fails to deliver anything other than a beautifully shot but unengaging film.

Very disappointing.
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A dog from the word go!
jjnxn-110 October 2013
Absolutely wretched and self consciously arty this lame exercise in vanity tries to recreate the feeling of great 40's films but with supposedly modern dialogue. Apparently this means the actors swear every other word, which doesn't make it contemporary just dull and lacking in imagination. Cate Blanchett is okay although she has certainly been better elsewhere, but George Clooney is arch and affected while Tobey Maguire, usually a fine actor when properly cast is completely miscast, out of his depth and awful. Some of the cinematography is striking but that's hardly enough to make this turgid, poorly directed misfire worth sitting through.A dog from the word go!
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A travesty to filmmaking...
ivo_shandor1 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Never have I seen a worse blight on film than this movie. This is a blatant ripoff of Casablanca, or rather a movie trying to be Casablanca, ripping off the poster exactly, even the lettering and style.

I rented this film, hoping to see a period thriller piece. I was more interested in hearing the plot. This movie has the worst plot, and spoilers, the plot doesn't go anywhere, it just shoves in this piece of rubbish on building weapons and killing scientists. Soderbergh tries to do the old filmmaking tricks from the 40s, but they just fall flat and look stupid. When he does the old zoom in on a letter, with the black boxes around it like in the 40s films, you can't even read what the letter says, it's that terrible.

It's a waste of time, don't bother with it, even with the cast, Toby Maguire is terrible, Clooney isn't anything special and everyone else is just forgettable.

I'm surprised more people don't like this film for what it represents.
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Tired Thriller in post-war Germany
tigerfish509 April 2010
The veneer of neo-noir techniques and B&W cinematography can't conceal the numerous shortcomings of "The Good German". The film resembles a formulaic retread with none of its characters particularly sympathetic or likable - and worse yet, their intrigues make little sense. Tobey Maguire does a nice turn against type as a venal opportunist, but everybody else plows through the script like robot actors supplied by Central Casting.

The plot is full of deceits and betrayals which attempt to elevate the proceedings into the genre of dark thriller. A femme fatale and tainted romance are stirred into the conspiracies, until the story eventually culminates in the standard breathless pursuit of the movie's stock villain. Despite all the scheming and double-dealing, the characters and their narrative arcs seem stale and conventional, as if seen a thousand times previously. Soderbergh has the ability to produce challenging and original films, but he frequently turns out bland uninspiring concoctions - and this is one of his worst.
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Did ANYBODY read the book?
rnward6 October 2007
This movie is a complete distortion of an excellent book, which I happened to read when I was in Berlin. Characters are combined, distorted and outright eliminated. Sure, it's filmed in film noir style. Big deal. Without character motivation, consistency and background, this film is a total waste. The acting was wooden, the music was melodramatic, the dialog was lame, and the plot was utterly incomprehensible as filmed. I urge anyone who has some interest in reading a great mystery that was researched thoroughly and written in a suspenseful way to get a copy and check it out. I loved this book - I hated the movie.

Give it a miss.
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Absolutely mesmerizing
Potty-Man27 December 2006
Steven Soderberg is a hit-or-miss director. Either his films are acclaimed and loved by most, or they're infamous and hated. Having read the reviews, and having heard the negative buzz, I was expecting a miss. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.

The film was mesmerizing. Say what you will about it, you have to commend Soderbergh on his cinematography skills. Black and white hasn't looked this good since "The Man Who Wasn't There". It was so rich, with so many textures. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Definitely some of the best looking cinematography I've seen this year.

Also the score is great. It evokes just the right noir-ish atmosphere. The editing is crisp and clever. All of the technical elements of this movie are flawless.

I heard people complain about the story and the acting. I thought the acting was great. Clooney looks like he just came out of the 50's. He reminded me of Cary Grant. Cate Blanchett is perfect as the femme fatale. I can't think of any better casting choices for an old school film noir than these two.

I also thought the story was engaging, even though it was sometimes confusing. I loved the way the information was dispersed, and the fact that the film changes perspectives, and at different points it's narrated by different characters. Some of the revelations in the plot were really sophisticated.

Making this film the way it was made, using old school techniques, lighting, camera lenses, etc. was a gutsy move. I applaud Soderbergh for his experimentation. And I thin it's a successful one - it really feels like a 50's film noir classic. I wouldn't say it's Soderbergh's best film, but it's certainly one of his his most unique ones, and a return to form after a string of failures. I highly recommend it.
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They don't make 'em like they used to - and this is why!
Mr_PCM5 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Good German is an interesting experiment on the part of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, an experiment that, like Solaris, just does not pay off at all. This time, Soderbergh has tried to recreate the classic 30s and 40s noir films, drawing particularly heavily on Casablanca and The Third Man. Shot in black and white, and even in 1.66.1 rather than today's traditional widescreen, the film is an attempt to recapture an old film-making magic, but unfortunately the magic is long gone, and as a result The Good German comes across as simply trying too hard to bring back the 40s style. Further, in the attempt to fully realise and recreate the traditional noir style, substance is sacrificed, resulting in a rather thin and uninteresting plot. The characters are dull 1-dimensional and unengaging, to the extant that it is hard to care what happens to any of them. It is an attempt to make a 40s noir as they would have been made without the Hayes Code's restrictions on sex, swearing and violence - but unfortunately this lack of restriction makes little difference to the film.

There is little discernible 'plot' over a third into the film, but what plot there is(for want of a better term) revolves around a great deal of intrigue about a murder and a missing former SS man in Berlin during the Potsdam conference. Clooney is an American journalist who encounters an old flame (Blanchett) who is now accompanied by Clooney's driver - played by Tobey Maguire. While Clooney and Blanchett are rather bland, Maguire at least injects a mild amount of interest by playing against type as a rather vile driver in the army. The movie thus suffers greatly when he is killed off early. By the time the plot 'intrigue' started to resolve itself, I was past caring why people were searching for this man (who is also Blanchett's husband) and whether or not they found him. The film sacrifices substance for style - but unfortunately the style isn't exactly on the money. It all looks stylish enough in black and white, Soderbergh heavily uses shadow, to the extent that it is comparable to Joel Schumacher's overuse of dry ice and smoke in his 80s films.

The final scene is almost a shot-for-shot recreation of the end of Casablanca, but rather than lending the film credibility it only serves to underline the deficiencies of the Good German in trying to measure up to the 1940s classic. Blanchett is no Bergman and Clooney sure isn't Humphrey Bogart! Overall the film starts out with an interesting aim but in the end comes over as a load of pretentious and uninteresting twaddle, trying to capture (or steal) the magic from a movie style long gone. Casablanca is timeless. This is shameless. And a real shame.
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Not-so-good German
char treuse24 January 2007
A clever look: imitation vintage B-movie in black and white; Steven Soderbergh's appropriate, artful gimmick for this film set in Berlin in the immediate aftermath of WWII.

Cate Blanchett turns in an apt theatrical performance given "The Bad German's" archly retro conceit. As the film's mother/whore femme fatale, Cate is sphinx-like, world-weary and made up like a drag queen at Mardi Gras. George Clooney, meanwhile, turns in his routine performance that is altogether too modern and casual. Put him in scrubs and he's ready again for the ER. Together, they create no chemistry nor any other natural science. Toby McGuire, as a sleazy, black-marketing GI, is so painfully hammy you'll find yourself begging for him to stop.

The storyline is awkwardly developed and unnecessarily opaque, its characters cold and remote. There's really nobody to cheer for or identify with; no emotions to hook us into this world. When was the last time that international intrigue, on-screen, was so unintriguing? It's too bad we've been served such an exciting cinematic look -- an overly lit, noir-like one -- only as window dressing on a story as bleak and dreary as the blitzkrieged landscapes on view.
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I thought it was great
yelphets28 November 2006
I thought The Good German was a terrific, thought-provoking, movie, an unsentimental view of what it costs to survive war, for nations and individuals. The cast is excellent: George Clooney is the solid American we know from old movies: not glamorous, not necessarily heroic, but good; Tobey Maguire turns the boy soldier cliché upside down. Cate Blanchett is delicate and beautiful, but colder than ice.

Reporter Clooney comes to Berlin just as the war ends to work, and to find former lover Blanchett. Covering the Potsdam Conference, he uncovers a murder, and the fierce post-war battles between Russia and the U.S. to win Germany's scientists. The movie is filled with people willing to betray any good inclination for their causes, which range from enhanced military strength to a better life away from war-ravaged Germany. What's the price for Clooney's reporter, and is it worth the cost?

I don't see how any thinking person can't find resonance in today's headlines!
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Great book, horrible movie
eric.flesher23 March 2009
The same old story where the book is terrific and Hollywood's version can't do it justice. They altered the story and did away with characters that were critical to the plot. George Clooney was unconvincing in the lead role and should stick with TV or "O Brother Where Art Thou?" type of roles. He is not a heavy weight enough actor to pull off this role. I tried not to get excited about this film fearing it would not come close to the book. A little pessimism goes a long way. As it turns out this film did not even come close to building the suspense generated by the book.

Read the book and file the film under "F" for forgettable.
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A good idea, carried out somewhat badly.
Poseidon-320 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Clooney is bandied about by the red carpet wags as today's answer to Cary Grant and Clark Gable and, though he indeed always does look smashing, that does not mean he is capable of exhibiting the old world movie star acting that a film like this one calls for. Here, he plays an American officer sent to post WWII Berlin to cover a peace conference who decides to seek out a former lover (Blanchett) while he's there. It turns out, a little too coincidentally, that his driver Maquire also knows her and is carrying on his own affair with her. Blanchett is a woman of many secrets and the more Clooney tries to investigate what's happening with her, the more trouble he finds himself in. He winds up with practically everyone around him, from the Americans to the Soviets, ready to snuff him out as quickly as they can. The film is an experiment. Director Soderbergh set out to recreate the style and technique of 1940's noir film-making and eschewed the use of today's lighting and sound technology, as well as other attributes such as location filming. Clooney more than possesses the classic movie star looks, but his portrayal offers no nods to the past. His walk, his sense of rhythm and his manner are all mostly contemporary, so there's a conflict in presentation from the get-go. If he is less than desirable, than Maguire is nothing short of reprehensible. He's hammy, inappropriate and helplessly 2006 in every aspect of his acting. (These discrepancies are not helped by the inexplicable decision to have the screenplay riddled with expletives that seem terribly out of place within the film, whether they were around in 1945 or not.) In contrast, Blanchett is completely at home and expertly provides the film with the type of character, look and performance that might be found in a film from that era. She completely invests herself in the realm and is easily the best thing about the movie. Bridges and Thompson appear in small roles as confident, potentially shady authority figures. Thompson disappears more into his characterization than Bridges does, but Bridges is all right. Another decent, if contemporary portrayal is turned in by Orser as an army pal of Clooney's who assists him with some investigative details. Oliver, as Blanchett's spouse, is only a couple of years younger than her in real life, but could almost pass for her son! The black and white cinematography varies from striking and evocative to muddy and dull. There is some admirable and interesting art direction, production design and set work. Newman supplies an authentically stirring score though the film ultimately winds up being mostly unworthy of it. It's as if Soderbergh came up with a great idea to pay homage to the great films of the past and then shot himself in the foot through bad decision-making and poor casting (though it's become nearly obligatory by now for his films to star Clooney, he could have at least directed him to a more bit appropriate performance.) The result is a film that bores fans of current movies and disappoints fans of old Hollywood product. The revelations, meant to jolt the viewer, sadly seem a little tame in light of other prior films, not the least of which include "Sophie's Choice" from nearly 25 years earlier! It isn't a complete washout, but certainly falls short.
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A 5/10 at best
pushnlacs7 September 2007
The Good German- Well I don't know how else to put this besides, this film sucked. Now I'll admit that I'm not a Soderberg fan and don't even like his highly regarded films such as Sex,Lies and Video Tape or Traffic, but that isn't to say that I'll hate a film simply because his name is attached to it.

My hate for this film has do to with the screenplay, Direction, and just all around poor poor film making that went into it. The story is a joke and jumps around all over the place making little sense most of the time, the dialogue is written to match which is to say it's horrible, and even the cinematography that was talked about so much looks little like classic films from the 40s and instead just looks like a generic modern film with some stock footage thrown in.

It's one of those films that while watching you just have to wonder why it was even made and how anyone involved thought they were making anything worth while. It's one of those films that matter so little that they won't even be remembered for how bad they were but will instead be forgotten.

And don't even get me started on the Casablanca references.
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Excellent story telling in the post World War II tradition of THE THIRD MAN
sidneysaffron16 November 2006
The best film to evoke the period in recent memory. Blanchett and Clooney lead a strong cast and make a better film than expected from the novel's source material. Archival newsreel footage of 1945 Berlin and black and white cinematography put to very effective use. Toby McGuire as a self-serving, mean spirited weasel shows another side of the usually boyish charmer. Beau Bridges well cast as the US army brass who bears a self-righteous similarity to contemporary military higher-ups who think they have a corner on deciding the right thing to do. Secrets, lies, love and intrigue woven together to form a provocative study of moral ambiguities and tough choices in wartime. Highly recommended.
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Worth seeing, but I wish it were better than it is
zetes1 January 2007
Soderbergh is a director with a decent amount of guts but not a lot of talent. Here he attempts to make a classic Hollywood film, reminiscent of The Third Man and Casablanca, by mimicking, or at least trying to mimic, the classical style of cinematography, by scratching the negative, having the dialogue recorded on mono (I think), and having the actors deliver performances along the lines of the studio days. The gimmick honestly doesn't work all that well. Lovers of classic films will notice how different the film-making is from that of the '40s. How hazy the cinematography is compared to Casablanca or The Third Man (it looks like you're watching a movie on a black and white television). Or how much more swearing and sexual content there is in the film. Yes, the gimmick is a weak one and somewhat detrimental to the rest of the film. Otherwise, it's a pretty good mystery. Not a great one. The pacing lags in the middle, and the mystery only starts to make sense right near the end, when much of the audience has stopped caring. The film's strongest asset is Cate Blanchett, who channels Marlene Dietrich. She is easily one of today's best actresses, and the only cinematographic triumph of the film is the lighting of her face – she's drop-dead beautiful. I'll probably be hung by the nostalgists, but I'd take her – in both her acting skills and beauty – over the lead actresses of Casablanca and The Third Man. George Clooney is decent, but his character is fairly two-dimensional. He's a pretty boring hero. I really liked Tobey Maguire, though. His character was much more interesting, and I wish he could have been in the movie more. I absolutely loved the climactic sequence, but the film continues on for too long after that. Blanchett's big revelation at the end feels rather anticlimactic.
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Still interesting, if over-ambitious
Chris_Docker9 April 2007
In true noir-ish fashion, much of the intrigue with The Good German is about to whom, and why, the title applies. For a film that has so much devotion to being a 40s recreation or homage, and in spite of another mesmerising performance from the very talented Cate Blanchett, it is also a mystery as to why it is not more of a runaway success.

Employing the grainy black-and-white look of Good Night and Good Luck, only more so, The Good German is a formal exercise in original 40s technique. It uses as its subject 1945 Berlin and the nightmare scenarios of post-war safety. Blanchett plays Lena Brandt, a Jewish German, who attributes her amazing survival to being the ex-wife of an SS man. (She claims he is dead, by the way). Her boyfriend is the violent and abusive Patrick Tully, engagingly played by Tobey Maguire. But haunting her life is also good-guy George Clooney, in the shape of US Captain Jake Geismer. They go back a long way. In more than one sense, to put it delicately. He is disturbed to see her turning tricks as much as he is to see her hanging out with a low-life like Tully.

Lena wants to get out of Berlin, but that is easier said than done. Our film is awash with intrigues as everyone individually tries to help her, but everyone also schemes against each other. Who is a war criminal and who is just an ordinary German? Understandably, no-one wants to be caught with their pants down, and everybody is in Lena's.

Lena herself plays her cards very close to her chest. She only reveals her hand towards the end. As she takes over centre-stage, her story provides some tension and emotional ballast to a plot that is otherwise a bit lifeless. Disappointingly, the usually capable Clooney is the weak link in the acting. His usually charismatically chirpy, cheeky style seems anachronistic and makes him look both typecast and mis-cast. The part could have been written for Humphrey Bogart. There and many thematic and visual references to Casablanca. But Clooney's lack of gravitas highlights the film's stylistic weakness. The Good German is ponderous without conveying a seriousness of the subject matter and so ends up just seeming self-important.

Beautiful noir-ish chiaroscuro lighting is a delicious hearkening back to more substantial classics of old. But, with the exception of Lena, the characters lack the moral ambiguity that was so characteristic of such films. Jake mentions, "the good old days - when you could tell who was the bad guy by who was shooting at you." But, although the line could have come out of the mouth of Bogart, it refers to a period and style of film-making that is a world away from what this tries to be.

Lena (Cate Blanchett) is a mystery, and the film is worth seeing for this magnificent, towering performance, that is also a study in emotional complexity. Long-suffering, she oozes oceans of repressed emotion in a way to make Ingrid Bergman proud. Although more complex than female protagonists of 40s movies, she is still the most successful part of the whole homage.

The story does have a little more subtlety than one might have expected, but I find it hard to imagine vast audiences wading through it joyfully until the pace eventually picks up enough to warrant serious interest. It's good to see the usually very capable Steven Soderbergh directing serious cinema again (instead of his Ocean's Eleven romps) but this over-ambitious project doesn't quite cut it. See it if you're a fan of Blanchett, or if you enjoy seeing Clooney getting beaten up.
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One Big Gimmick
mrvirgo4 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Once you get past the gimmick of black and white, about ten minutes into the film, I would say, the rest goes down hill. There is no explication as why characters act the way they do for most of the principal parts. Why for example is the Scottish bar keep so willing to do anything and everything for the Kate character? And, while we're at it, what is a Scot doing running a bar in post-war Berlin? Huh? What is Kate character's motivation for acting the way she does throughout the movie in terms of her husband? Practically everyone walks through his part and about an hour into the film, I was hoping I could make a fast exit but I was with friends. This movie goes absolutely no where, the plot is clichéd and trite and you would do better to feed the pigeons in the park for entertainment.
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Effective Thriller With A Couple Of Flaws
Theo Robertson31 March 2007
I went in to see this movie with expectations relatively low . The company I was in had dragged me to see INLAND EMPIRE which I am on record as saying was the worst movie I have paid to see . It should also be remembered that this movie had a very limited release both sides of the pond which considering has an Oscar winning director and three big names in the cast is not a good sign , so I went in with fairly low expectations

Perhaps my low expectations worked in the film's favour because it's a very effective film noir/ political thriller . Soderberg has brought a metonym to the story . He directs in monochrome and has mixed his own filmed material with stock footage of a devastated Berlin . Remember all those old movies where someone is driving a car and it's painfully obvious that it's filmed on a studio set with back projection ? Well there's a scene featuring Toby McGuire and George Clooney in a jeep where the same technique is used . The film also contains a title sequence straight out of the 1940s and has scenes with an overlong shot duration same as film from yesteryear

Unfortunately by doing this Soderbergh draws attention to the fact that Paul Attanasio's screenplay wasn't written in the 40s because there's a sex scene and several uses of the F word . If you're making a film that's a homage to 1940s cinema shouldn't you go the whole hog and write a screenplay in the same manner ? Hasn't the producer shot himself in the foot ? You'll be left scratching your head wondering why sex and bad language has been included

Still it's a minor complaint and one that doesn't destroy the movie which has a plot and if you had no idea that Cate Blanchett has been cast as Lena Brandt then you'd genuinely believe that her character was played by a European actress . Blanchett is the best actress in the world today and the fact that she wasn't Oscar nominated is another symptom that the annual academy awards are becoming more and more worthless . Tobey McGuire as Tully is considered less effective mainly because he has a sex scene which brought the cry from a couple of my cinema companions " That under no circumstances should spidey be seen to have sex " but seeing as they were both females I'm sure they were upset that George Clooney didn't get the opportunity to do some on screen horizontal jogging . Students of film studies will know the term " Impact aesthetics " and there's a great example of this when Captain Geismer studies a hundred dollar bill which will have you jumping out of your seat in fright

This is a fairly good thriller which while it isn't a film for everyone did hold my attention through its running time and despite it's somewhat retro formalist technique has me asking why it didn't get a wider release in both Britain and America ?
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The Black And White German
claudette-crivelli4 March 2007
I was so aware of the attempted style of the film that I could hardly concentrate on anything else. The look, oh, the look. Clooney and Blanchet - Bergman, Bogart, shadows and fog. Pity. It could have been a tense war time thriller - Who is he? Where is he? What is it about? I was always mesmerized by questions like that on films that "The Good German" seems to want to emulate. Sodebergh is one my most recent favorites and one of the main reasons is because he is unafraid of taking chances. The question is, what are the chances taken for? I get more "Bubble" - sort of - than "The Good German" Blanchet is great to watch, she's Hildegarde Kneff and/or a lip-full Gloria Grahame but other than admire her right there on the screen I wasn't permitted to feel anything. George Clooney is just as solid in black and white as he is in color and Tobey McGuire - well, the best I can say is that his contribution is brief. What I took with me as the most valuable aspect of this experiment is/was Thomas Newman's classically colorful score.
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Wanna-be noir hopes for Casablanca ending but gives a ridiculous copy instead.
shaysayre13 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
With a great director and two Oscar-caliber actors, one would think the film would be outstanding. Unfortunately, it fails to live up to expectations. I blame the failure on a poorly written and adapted screen play, as the novel is wonderful. The film neither establishes bonding relationships nor connects viewers with characters, an element that is so well accomplished in the novel. Toby should stick to Spiderman roles, as he really bombs in this one. The best part was the usage of archival newsreel footage from post-war Berlin. George and Kate had no chemistry, and what was supposed to be a hart-warming love morphed into a mutual disgust exchange. The entire audiences at my showing booed the film at its conclusion, and that is a sure sign that something's gone wrong. Such a pity.
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