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The Good German
UKScreen Rating:

The Good German – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

In post-World-War-Two Germany, US captain Jake Geismer (Clooney) is sent to cover the Potsdam conference as a reporter with inside knowledge and Patrick (Maguire) is assigned to be his driver.
When Patrick isn’t playing chauffeur, he’s pimping out his girlfriend Lena (Blanchett), who’s hoping he can secure her safe passage out of the country.
Lena, of course, turns out to be an old flame of Jake’s, just to add sexual tension to the already difficult relationship between the idealistic captain and the driver who’s after whatever he can get.
Their relationship deteriorates as tension erupts between the victorious former allies, who have already started dividing the spoils of war – chiefly the nuclear scientists – between them.
In a sign that the end of war doesn’t necessarily bring peace, guilt, espionage and betrayal continue to rage in the war-torn German capital.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

While the film is passable, and at its heart, has a moral centre, it’s a busy and unexceptional piece of work.
It appears from the outset that Steven Soderbergh’s intention here is less to entertain and grip his audience than to show us that he can produce a film that looks like it was made in the 1940s.
It’s black and white, with long dark shadows and overexposed faces. The acting is – intentionally – rather melodramatic, particularly in the case of Blanchett’s femme-fatale. Driving scenes involve the characters clenching their buttocks repeatedly, while pictures of a moving road are projected behind them. The shape of the image is less wide-screen than most of us now have on our TVs and even the iconic final scene of Casablanca is shamelessly reproduced.
This is a film-school exercise, for which film-student Steven will have scored an A+. But no-one would be expected to pay their £10 to see a student film or an exercise in mimicking six decade old film-making techniques, however successful. So he can make a film that looks sixty years old…so what? Homage is one thing, but imitation is another thing entirely.
Soderbergh could have used his impressive cast and modern technologies to produce a far more interesting and satisfying film noir, that worked better for a modern audience.
But by limiting himself so rigidly to the style of wartime epics, and clouding it with an overly complex plot of double-crossing twists and turns, he’s taking advantage of our goodwill and patience.
If we want to see sixty year old film noirs, there are already plenty for us to choose from.

opens nationwide 9th March 2007

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