The Good German

Cards on the table. After the travesty of Out Of Sight and the complete pointlessness of Solaris (don’t get me started on the Ocean’s stuff) the idea of going to see anything that puts Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney back together was fairly repellent (no matter how enjoyable I always find the latter). However, when I heard that The Good German had been made using the same techniques and, indeed, cameras of the studio noir it’s a homage to*, there wasn’t anything that was gonna keep my geek-film fat fanboy ass out of the cinema.

It’s 1945. Jacob Geismer is war correspondent for the New Republic sent to Berlin to cover the Potsdam Conference. The wheeling-dealing driver he is assigned is trying to get his German girlfriend, Lena, out of the country. But, there’s a reason why Geismer chose this assignment and that reason is Lena. But, why is everyone trying to find her dead husband? Da! Da! Daaaaaah!

And, boy, do they nail the look. It’s obvious that Soderbergh is living out all his mogul fantasies. You can see him strutting around in jodhpurs and having stand-up arguments with the studio executives. If you’re going for this much affectation, get teh eye-patch and beret. Now! OK, the encyclopedic knowledge of cinema’s language and history on show does lead to a lack of clarity of style. You get to play spot the lift. There’s the Third Man bit…the Verboten bit…Casablanca… All underpinned by a bang-on score by Thomas Newman the perfect balance of melodrama and bombast.

Now much has been made of Clooney having old-school star quality. I don’t think there’s any of the greats he hasn’t been compared to at some point. So, can he pull it off in a more comparable film? You’ll be very disappointed to hear that damned tooting he can. doesn’t that make you sick?

Cate Blanchett does that thing she always does of being completely brilliant, but you can’t quite put your finger on why. She’s all alabaster skin, dark eyes and Dietrich-accent. And again, is completely sexy against all objective analysis (something more movie makers should be aiming for). OK, there’s not even a single spark of the supposed burning passions between here and Clooney but we can let that go.

Tobey Maguire (Tulley, the driver) does that affable, gormless thing that he’s so good at. But, obviously relishes the opportunity to play treacherous ratfink (kinda how Ray Elwood should’ve been portrayed in Buffalo Soldiers). And, all good noir needs a bar-tender. In this instance another brilliantly effortless performance from scot Tony Curran. His time is coming.

Similar to Clooney’s Good Night, And Good Luck it’s tough not to see contemporary resonances in this film: The spoils of war to the occupying forces; can you blame an entire nation for the works of their leaders etc. however in this case it’s a lot more understated. Not least, because it’s the type of multi-layered complex political thriller that no-one seems to make any more. Making it thoroughly enjoyable in it’s twisty-turny ways. Albeit slowed down every now and again by the director’s need to shove another unnecessary film-literate reference in there. Let’s be honest, had any of the film-makers they rip off throughout this had turned in a 110 minute film it would now be legendary for being hacked to pieces.

And, personally, I’d have left it unsaid as to who shot the driver.

*A belief that Wikipedia has disabused me of, today. Must look into it further.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

12 April 2007 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Film

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