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Cate Blanchett
Tobey Maguire
George Clooney
Paul Attanasio.
Steven Soderbergh.
Running Time
107 minutes

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The Good German
Soderbergh's World War II thriller with Clooney as a US correspondent in Berlin.

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1945. US war correspondent Jake Geismer (Clooney) arrives in Berlin to cover the Potsdam Peace Conference. Shepherded around town by a genial fixer (Maguire), Geismer is pulled into a nexus of subterfuge involving the black market, V2 rockets and Geismer’s old flame (Blanchett).

The Good German
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One of the great things about awaiting a new Steven Soderbergh movie is that you are never quite sure which Steven Soderbergh is going to show up. There is Steven The Entertainer, a purveyor of smart, snappy, often crime-themed genre entertainments (Out Of Sight, The Limey, Ocean’s Eleven) that have one foot in the filmic entertainments of the past; there is Steven The Worthy, the maker of thought-provoking, issue-driven dramas (Erin Brockovich, Traffic) that manage to invest the messaging with a populist touch; and there is Steven The Experimentalist, an artist who plays with genre, content and form (Kafka, Schizopolis, Solaris, Bubble) without a care in the world for audience approval.
With his latest, based on Joseph Kanon’s doorstep of a novel, all three Soderberghs turn up at once, and the result is an interesting mess. Rather than make a film about the ’40s, Soderbergh has attempted to make a film from the ’40s, a lush thriller/melodrama à la Casablanca, The Third Man and Notorious, shot in Warner Bros. house style. At times, the movie veers into a studied Euro artsiness, all inky blacks and burnt-out whites, but mostly Soderbergh gets the approximation dead right. The spare, up-front credits sequence; the restrained camera moves; the dodgy back-projections; the claustrophobic, shot-on-a-backlot feel are all recreated with a film buff’s affection and care for the telling details. This is pastiche, not parody (which is why a blatant closing airport nod to Casablanca really jars) but, in nailing the minutiae, Soderbergh overlooks the entertainment values that a Jack Warner or Louis B. Mayer would have demanded.
Adding pungency is Soderbergh’s intention to make an old studio picture with modern sensibilities. Paul Attanasio’s screenplay is saturated with disillusionment about American post-War motives, frank dialogue (“Don’t Jew me on the price,” barks Tobey Maguire’s Corporal Tully) and a scene akin to Rick in Casablanca throwing Ilsa on a bed and taking her roughly from behind. But what Soderbergh doesn’t improve upon is character nuance and psychological complexity. He also fails to make the mystery/thriller aspects compelling. There’s interesting noir-ish meat here, but the storytelling feels disengaged, never making you care enough about Geismer’s journey.
The net result is that while the recreation has strong moments (a footchase through an Allied parade works a treat), The Good German is strangely lifeless and remote. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is its cast, who fail to generate any star wattage. Sporting a bandaged ear like another movie Jake in over his head — Gittes from Chinatown — Clooney turns in probably his least charismatic performance to date, failing to convince there is a beating heart under the wiseacre exterior of his shambling shamus. Under a mask of make-up Cate Blanchett fares little better, invoking Dietrich and Garbo but delivering nothing approaching a rounded, believable character. In trying so hard to experiment with bygone styles, Soderbergh and co. have failed to commit to the substance, the spark and the melodrama of the Golden Age. Perhaps the answer lies with a different director. Whatever happened to that guy who made Out Of Sight?

This should have been Soderbergh gold. Instead it is mostly unengaging and dull, proof positive that they don’t make them like they used to.

Reviewed by Ian Freer

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Good German, The

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The Good German Review

Though Steven Soderbergh succeeds in emulating the glossy look of 1940s noirs, but The Good German ultimately ends up as a self-conscious exercise in style that forgets to develop compelling characters. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 18:30, 20 January 2012 | Report This Post

Decent homage

Okay. Not great. Clooney is good and so is the cinematography but otherwise not memorable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 18:26, 05 February 2008 | Report This Post

The Good German

Not terrible, but not very good either, the main feeling I had at the big dramatic 'revelation' at the end was 'was that it'?   It was all very stylishly shot, but apart from Clooney and maybe Beau Bridges and Leland Orser everyone seemed miscast (the moment where Tobey Maguires character beats up Clooney is laughable, he doesn't seem to be the bad ass black marketeering scumbag he is obviously meant to be, his whole demeanour is that of a Peter Parkeresque goofbag), and Blanchett had ... More

Posted by Indio at 22:49, 27 January 2008 | Report This Post

what a dampner...u go into a sauna hopin for a rejuvenatin xperience n come out feelin like u'v taken a cold bath...can it get worser?? a tepid movie with the most shallow performances by two fabulous actors of our generation...why did george clooney leave his panache in the closet?? tobey macguire is always more watchable when he's playin a negative role, n he did keep it interestin before endin up in the river. the camerawork was fine...but better use cud have been made of the black n white op... More

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Posted by shaon666 at 06:18, 25 April 2007 | Report This Post

RE: The Good German

A horrible, awful waste of film unbelievably misjudged, shame on everyone involved!   Seriously this film almost made me cry, I mean the poster pissed me off no end so it was probably inevitable that I would dislike this but the bile it caused was unexpected.   I so wanted to be wrong too what with the presence of Clooney and Blanchett. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by impqueen at 13:39, 13 April 2007 | Report This Post

RE: The Good German

Poorly paced and unengaging for a film that should and could have been a classic 40's thriller. With the star wattage and the beautiful look at the film, I was suprised to find myself looking at my watch and drifting off. Oh so disappointing. ... More

Posted by Timon at 13:23, 13 April 2007 | Report This Post

The Good German

Herbert Ross’ excellent 1972 film Again, Sam with Woody Allen in a darkened cinema, his mouth agape, his eyes wide open as he sits transfixed by the scene playing out in front of him. The scene in question is the climactic sequence from ncaHumphrey Bogart telling Ingrid Bergman to get on that plane, and Woody hangs on every word as the actors recite some of the most memorable dialogue in film history. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. That opening sequence came to min... More

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Posted by Philconcannon at 20:22, 23 February 2007 | Report This Post

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