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The Good German (2006) R 105min

September 21st, 2008 by Maxim · 3 Comments · 5,189 Views


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Steven Soderbergh (Good Night, and Good Luck, A Scanner Darkly) directed this 2006 after-WWII drama starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Jerry Maguire based on Joseph Kanon’s novel.

The plot: July 1945. Stalin, Roosevelt and Chirchill are meeting to divide liberated Europe. Journalist Jake Geismer (George Clooney) arrives to cover the Potsdam conference. He is issued a captain’s uniform for easier passage, and a driver Corporal Tully (Jerry Maguire). Jake is trying to find his old girlfriend Lena, only to discover that she’s become a prostitute during the war and that she’s now with Tully. Soon, however, Tully’s body washed out on the river bank near Potsdam with a lot of money on him. Jake may be the only person who wants to solve the crime: U.S. personnel are busy finding Nazis to bring to trial, and both Soviets and the Americans are looking for German rocket scientists. Lena’s husband, reportedly killed during the war, is a scientist behind development of V-2 rockets, and everyone is trying to get their hands on the rocket technology. Good, gripping mystery showing regular people caught up between two superpowers deciding the future of the world.

The good: Soderbergh and George Clooney apparently love making movies together – Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana, Michael Clayton… Soderbergh not only directed and produced this movie, he also directed the cinematography and only used lenses that were available in the 40s – fixed-focal-length lenses, as well as only incandescent lights used before that give the picture sharp unnatural contrasts. The sound was also recorded the old way – with a boom mike, so actors were forced to speak loudly and clearly like actors did in the old Hollywood movies. Cate Blanchett was amazing again – she always is. The film shows what’s it like to survive, and what would people do to survive during the war. It also shows, with irony, that WWII quickly grew into the Cold War, and how alies became enemies almost overnight. They used real Russians and Germans for once to play Russians and Germans to make them look and sound more authentic. Great scene during parade on the ruins of Berlin, and also a scene at the airport which looked like it was from Casablanca.

The bad: Soderbergh once again shot a film in black and white, which worked great in Good Night, and Good Luck, and performed magic in Pleasantville, but it didn’t quite work for me in this movie. There were good reasons to do it, such as blending the action with archival footage, but he might also wanted to make this spy movie look like a timepiece, but the result looks rather like an abomination of a Hitchcock film. Even the plot and the music (nominated for Oscar for Thomas Newman’s score) are hitchcockian; the mysterious guy is talked about the whole movie but never shows up until last third of the movie. Hitchcock would never have a sex scene or so much swearing in his movie though. Also, Clooney’s character is being beaten and slapped around by all sorts of individuals almost non-stop throughout the movie. The plot is quite complex and sophisticated, but many characters are two-dimensional.

The summary: Hitchcock mystery wanna-be. Definitely a nice mystery, and a fantastic musical score. Clooney and Blanchett give good performances.

The cast: General – John Roeder | Jake Geismer - George Clooney | Tully – Tobey Maguire | Lena Brandt - Cate Blanchett | Lieutenant Schaeffer - Dave Power | General Sikorsky – Ravil Isyanov

The crew: Director – Steven Soderbergh | Novel – Joseph Kanon | Screenplay – Paul Attanasio | Producers – Frederic W. Brost, Ben Cosgrove, Gregory Jacobs, Ben Waisbren | Musical score – Thomas Newman | Cinematography – Steven Soderbergh | Editing – Steven Soderbergh | Warner Bros. Pictures

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Rated 3/5 on Sep 21 2008
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Tags: Black and White · DVD · Drama · Film Noir · Movies · Mystery · Thrillers/Suspense · USA

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Maxim // Sep 22, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    I thought it was pretty funny that Clooney steps on the rake all the time.

  • 2 Maxim // Sep 22, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    I thought it was pretty funny that Clooney steps on the rake all the time.

  • 3 Eugene // Sep 22, 2008 at 9:10 am

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    I disagree. Definitely deserves more than 3.5 stars. The action is gripping, there is nothing wrong with George Clooney being slapped around. Actually it looks more real this way than George Clooney slapping people around. And by the way I am not sure how Clooney being slapped around is worse than his car blown up in Michael Clayton. Yet latter deserved more stars :)

  • 4 Maxim // Sep 22, 2008 at 9:20 am

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    The action was not gripping, but the mystery was – the story is very good, although it’s quite similar to 1949 “The Third Man”. But what ruined, or at least damaged, the movie for me is the visuals – the old camera and boom mike technique is an interesting experiment, but it doesn’t mean it works well with the movie – it was only distracting (”Oh, that was another nice visual. Wait, what’s going on with the story?”)

  • 5 Maxim // Sep 22, 2008 at 9:23 am

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    I thought it was pretty funny that Clooney steps on the rake all the time.

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