The Good German
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Steven Soderbergh
scr Paul Attanasio
with George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Tony Curran, Beau Bridges, Leland Orser, Ravil Issyanov, Don Pugsley, Robin Weigert, Dominic Comperatore, Dave Power, Christian Oliver
release US 15.Dec.06, UK 9.Mar.07
06/US Warner 1h45

Here's looking at you: Maguire, Clooney and Blanchett

clooney blanchett macgure

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The Good German Steven Soderbergh recreates the style of a wartime noir thriller so perfectly that this film feels almost stilted and quaint by today's standards. But it's still a crackling and engaging noir mystery.

Jake (Clooney) is a journalist, back in 1945 Berlin to cover the post-war Potsdam conference, and he also hopes to meet up with Lena (Blanchett), the local woman he left behind. So imagine his surprise when he discovers that she's now linked to his driver (Maguire), whose all-American nice-guy manner masks something much darker. Soon Jake is investigating a murder, digging deeper into corruption among Americans, Germans and Russians, uncovering a big conspiracy along the way. But who's behind it all?

Soderbergh assembles everything like a vintage studio movie--striking monochrome photography, sharp editing, bold direction, severe lighting, emotive narration, even the surging score. The template is clearly Casablanca, but without the constraints of the Hayes Code. In this chaotic locale, "nobody's hands are clean"; everyone is up to something nefarious. Colourful characters swirl through the story--Curran's helpful barman, Bridges' evasive commander, Orser's slippery lawyer, Issyanov's shifty Russian, and so on.

The object of everyone's obsession is Blanchett's striking femme fatale, a cross between Ingrid Bergman and Marlene Dietrich who internalises the light and shadows and has so many secrets that, frankly, it's not easy to keep up. Opposite Blanchett's fierce steeliness and Maquire's layered mystery, Clooney's smart-mouthed but plodding investigator seems almost dull. Which is exactly as he should seem, perhaps, but it makes the film feel more simplistic as the story gets increasingly twisted and tangled.

All is revealed in the end, and the film remains clever, insinuating and playful from start to finish. As it progresses, the characters emerge in sharp focus, vivid and full of life--well, a 1940s Hollywood movie version of life. Even so, the ultimate effect is hollow, like a B-movie that's great fun but doesn't leave us with anything to chew on. This is what makes it very different from, say, Todd Haynes' similar approach on the 1950s-style Far From Heaven. That was a film that got under the skin. This is just solid entertainment.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 29.Nov.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Good German chrisg, london: 5/5 "I am a huge Clooney fan and I went to see this with my husband, who isn't. I went with quite high expectations which, I am glad to say, weren't misplaced. We both really enjoyed the film. The cinematography was amazing and the acting spot on. Blanchett was outstanding, totally believeable, and Maguire was unexpectedly good as the villain. I have read some very negative reviews but if you are a film noir fan as I am, you will enjoy this. I am also a great fan of Soderbergh and this for me is Clooney/Soderbergh's best collaboration to date. A fantastic film, well worth seeing. I can't wait for it to come out on DVD. If you like Clooney and film noir, go see it. If you don't you are missing a real treat." (12.Mar.07)
2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall