The Good German
Film review by: Witney Seibold
There are a few wonderful things about Steven Soderbergh’s WWII drama “The Good German.” O.k. There’s one wonderful thing. O.k. Maybe it’s not “wonderful,” but it’s certainly pretty to look at: Cate Blanchett in a dark wig and dark lipstick. It’s a very becoming look for her. The luminous black-and-white photography also helps. She really is a vamp in this film, and I could look at her like that for a while. Sadly, the film has other stuff in it too, and it’s all dull and confusing in comparison.
A young Hotspur of a soldier named Tully (a horribly, horribly miscast Tobey Maguire) has been running large portions of the post-war Berlin black market. He is a smiling young lad to his superiors, but a cursing abusive asshole the rest of the time. He is assigned to be the driver for an ex-soldier-now-war-correspondent Jake Geismer (George Clooney) in Berlin to cover the Potsdam Conference. Tully has been dating a married woman named Lena Brandt (Blanchett) who has been selling her body to survive, but y’know in a classy way. Soon Tully turns up dead, and the murder plot that unfolds reveals Geismer’s old love affair with Lena, Lena’s maybe-maybe-not-dead husband, and all sort of twists and turns that make no sense and should have been cut from the movie. Also, Clooney take four (4) severe beatings in the movie.
Soderbergh’s approach to the film was novel: make a WWII drama as if it were made during WWII. So we have a lot of visual quotations of “The Third Man” and “Casablanca,” and photography that is supposed to look like 1940s photography. Even the credits are period-appropriate. This approach sadly, doesn’t quite pull it off. If you’re going to recreate WWII-era filmmaking, don’t throw in anachronisms like the f-word, and extreme violence. Don’t throw in arbitrary plot twists either.
The film is also guilty of the multiple ending. Just when everything is resolved, and you expect the credits to roll, the film cuts to yet another scene, and brings up something else it forgot to address earlier on, and tacks a twist to it. Characters and twists begin to pop up like aggravating whack-a-moles on a busted machine with no scorecard.
Actually, that would be a better way to spend your time and money. Whack-a Mole is an awesome game. Oh, and Cate Blanchett is still pretty.