Written by Paul Attanasio
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Running Time: 1:45
for language, violence and some sexual content.
The Good German was a highly stylized, and highly boring film which had few good qualities.
Towards the end of WWII, Captain Jake Geismer goes to Germany to report on the partitioning meeting between the US, UK and USSR. While there he runs into an old flame, Lena Brandt, who is now dating Patrick Tully. Lena is desperate to get out of Germany, but refuses to explain why. Soon, people are trying to find her supposedly dead husband, and the search ends with more people dying. Geismer, still in love with Lena, tries to help her and uncover her hidden secret, which will change their lives forever.
I walked in to The Good German screening without thinking much of the film. I know it was Clooney and Soderbergh working together, which could be hit or miss. I didn't realize it was going to not only be in black and white, but also using only the equipment that could have been found in the 40s. It gave the movie an old, noirish look which was interesting, but much like most visual stylistic choices, only is interesting for a few minutes. After you get over the look, there needs to be a story or characters that can hold my attention, and this movie had neither.
First the story. It was somewhat intriguing trying to figure out what Lena's secrets were, but as the movie went along, there was such a build up of importance that I soon realized that no matter what the payoff was, it wasn't going to be satisfying. And let's face it, a movie that takes place in Germany at the end of WWII that deals with a Jewish woman... You can almost guess what her secret was. There was a lot of action (with poor Clooney getting beaten up at every turn) and there was a certain air of mystery, but for the most part, the story fell flat because I just didn't care.
None of the characters were interesting in the least. None of them had any emotions, beyond Tobey Maguire going nutso a couple of times. The movie took a different track in that the first 1/3 of the movie followed Maguire's character, then the second 1/3 followed Clooney's character, and finally the last 1/3 went with Cate Blanchett. Not in those exact amounts, but each 'segment' was started with a voiceover so you knew which character was the important one in that arc. It could have been a worthwhile plot device if it actually lead anywhere. But back to the characters. I never felt empathy for any of them. I never understood where they were coming from, I never cared whether they lived or died. In fact I kept hoping they would die so something fun would happen. The movie wanted to be a 40s noir detective story set in Germany, but it felt like a flat Hollywood production with old sets.
Then there were the actors. It was hard to tell sometimes if we were watching a serious film or a parody. The lines they spoke were so obvious and over the top, and plot twists sometimes so ridiculous, that I felt like the movie was one whole joke. Like Clooney and Soderbergh have become so powerful they can go into random production offices and ask for money based on nothing. So they figured let's have some fun and make a crappy film and see if people will take us seriously. Can't you see studios trying to hop on their bandwagon? Clooney + Soderbergh + December release = instant Oscar buzz! Thankfully, there has been no buzz. And I'll save my last words for Tobey Maguire who should stick to movies where his quirky take on every character fits in better. I'm starting to wonder how good an actor he really is because he stuck out like a sore thumb in this cast.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, The Good German was a waste of film. The money should have gone into... well, something else. Something that audiences would find compelling, or at the very least, entertaining.
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